Friday, 10th August 2018, Mbugwe Parish, Manyara Region, Tanzania.
My dear brothers and sisters,
I salute you in three languages: Kimbugwe, that is a local language here (talala mocheye), Swahili (habari gani) our national language and English in honour of our visitors from overseas.
We are gathered here to congratulate Fr. Martin Marsel Mareja as he celebrates 25 years of his priestly ministry. Let us all give him a round of applause. Basically, today we can say one word only, “Asante” (thank you). Preaching is part and parcel of a life of a priest, so today you’ve got to bear with me as I will speak a little bit longer than usual.
Frirst of all, I wish to sincerely thank Fr. Martin for asking me to preach on this most important occasion of his life as he celebrates 25th anniversary of priesthood. I want to share with you an incident which occurred two days before the ordination of Martin and Ludovic Njaiko an Augustinian, by the way two of them were ordained together. By then I was a curate to Fr. Michael Barry in Magugu parish. We had everything in place after working so hard and had erected a platform which was covered by an expensive tarpaulin. Some people came at night and stole it; this created confusion and anger because it just happened at a very last minute before the event itself. I will never forget it and I still remember it vividly the hurt caused to people who gave so much of their finance and time to erect the platform. God is good! We sent a runner to Fr. John Kelly, SAC, in Gallapo who gave us a loan of tarpaulin and the ordination took place smoothly on 8th August 1993. I believe God’s hand worked miracles.
Today, 25 years after, Fr. Martin Mareja celebrates the Silver Jubilee of priestly ministry, inside a church in construction. I can see that roofing is done with steel and corrugated sheets from South Africa. It would take a set of heavy machinery to bring it down so for those who stole the tarpaulin two days before his ordination, they have no hope and chance of stealing the roof where he is celebrating his silver Jubilee Mass in thanksgiving to God. I wish to congratulate the Parish Priest, his collaborator and all parishioners for the good work of building a permanent parish church.
The first reading for today’s liturgy is from Gen. 12:1-3. It speaks about the call of Abram. Yahweh said to Abram, “Leave your country, your family and your father’s house, for a land I will show you…” God calls with authority. God called Martin from his small village of “Osoley”, from his family, friends and away from his familiar environment to join a Congregation where the Lord wanted him to be. And, in obedience, he followed and today he is celebrating 25 years of service in the Lord’s vineyard as a member of the Pallottine family. Give him a round of applause.
Abram didn’t know where he was going but he trusted in God. The same applied to Fr. Martin. Martin trusted in God to lead him where he wanted to. No doubt he still does.
God said to Abram, “I will make you a great nation. I will bless you and make your name great.”Although Abram may not have witnessed the fulfilment of all the promises but most of them were fulfilled in his lifetime. I believe that Fr. Martin has experienced many times God fulfilling his promises through the apostolate entrusted to him by our Society. Talking to him he told me that he has gone through many challenges but at the same time he has enjoyed and still enjoys the privilege of serving the family of God where he is sent. He has been blessed serving in different places and roles in our Society. Currently he is in charge of our Mission Office in Thurles, Ireland. He is a blessing to the people he serves there. Likewise he receives God’s graces from the service he gives. He is a blessing to his family, friends, to our Society and to the universal Church.
God said to Abram, “and in you all the peoples of the earth will be blessed.” We congratulate you Fr. Martin for the work you do. We ask God to continue to bless you with the many graces you need in your life and in your ministry.
In the Gospel story from Lk. 17:11-19, Jesus meets ten lepers calling him, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us. Then Jesus said to them, go and show yourselves to the priest.” The story goes on that, as they went their way, they found they were cured. One of them turned back, praising God in a loud voice. Jesus was amazed by the ingratitude of the other nine whom he had just cured.
This gospel passage reminds us of how many people find it very difficult to show gratitude to God or to people who have been kind to us. I’m delighted that Fr. Martin saw the need and importance of expressing his gratitude to God on this day as he celebrates his Silver Jubilee of priesthood. He wishes to thank God for the many blessings he has received in his life and ministry.
Today, Fr. Martin Mareja invites all of us gathered here to thank God with him. He invites us to thank with him his parents, teachers, formators, friends, neighbours, members of his Society, members of the Union of the Catholic Apostolate, all religious and all people of good will who in one way or another have touched his life. Fr. Martin I wish to conclude by expressing my sincere thanks to the parishioners of Mbugwe and everybody gathered here for making this day a memorable one. I suppose I should be including the homilist of today as well in all this.
God is good! All the time God is good.
Ad multos annos.
God bless you all.
Fr James Amasi, SAC.