|Memorial, Paul Miki, S.J. and
Martyrs of Japan
6 Franciscans, 3 Jesuits, 17 lay people.
2 Samuel 24:2, 9-17
Psalm 32:1-2, 5, 6, 7
|About the Martyrs of Japan:
I am a Jesuit, and have known about this memorial of Paul Miki, S.J. and
his Companions, I had never investigated the story of the Martyrs of Japan.
It is an inspiring story, and I invite anyone who is interested to check
out the links above, to read a little bit or a lot more.
For most of us in the first world, particulary in places where Christianity is dying, the power of martyrdom is difficult to comprehend. Yet, in many parts of the world today, as some of us know quite personally, witnessing to our faith can cost a person dearly. Upon reflection, it is very clear why the total sacrifice and ultimate surrender of martyrdom inspires the faith and zeal of many people.
Today is a good day to reflect on the "cost of discipleship" in my life. In my everyday life, in my particular circumstances, how counter-cultural do I let my living of my faith become? It used to be quite common, particularly here in the U.S., to hear people say, "I was taught not to wear my faith on my shirt sleeve." There was a sense that there was virtue and merit in "keeping your faith to yourself." Perhaps this spirituality is based upon Jesus' admonition against "doing things for people to see," which of course was about the intention for doing things, not about whether they were in fact visible.
Christianity is essentially a faith to be lived in a visible community, proclaimed in word and in deed. It is not like joining a club, where it is enough to go to the meetings and pay one's dues. Jesus said his mission was "to proclaim liberty to captives," and that he had come "to set a fire on the earth." Our prayer to the Holy Spirit gives a sense of what we are asking for:
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful,
and kindle in us the fire of your love.
In today's gospel, Jesus takes his ministry back to his home town of Nazareth and finds himself powerless to ignite a fire there, to do anything liberating at all, "so much did their lack of faith distress him." There was never a more powerful description of how debilitating a lack of support can be. Is it possible that our difficulty with being on fire with faith, and bringing the liberating good news of our salvation in Jesus to the world has to do with how little support we find for our faith? Could it be that we all need the support of strong witnesses of faith around us to have the courage to live and proclaim our faith? And might these reflections help en-courage us to be sources of visible support to woman and men of faith around us, by my living of our faith "more publicly"?
I remember the day that I examined my conscience and realized that I feared being unpopular or rejected more than I feared being tepid in my faith. As I get older, I'm beginning to worry less about what others think, and I worry much more about whether I'm really living an authentic expression of the gospel of Jesus. A day on which we remember martyrs like these stirs the embers in my soul. Perhaps we can take in-spiration from these martyrs and pray that the Holy Spirit come into our hearts and set them ablaze for our daily lives in this world.
Paul Miki, S.J. was a Jesuit brother. It is a privilege to share the final words he preached from the cross onto which he surrendered his life:
"The sentence of judgement says that these men came to Japan from
the Philipines, but I did not come from any other country. I am a true
Japanese. The only reason for my being killed is that I have taught the
doctrine of Christ. I certainly did teach the doctrine of Christ. I thank
God it is for this reason I die. I believe that I am telling only the truth
before I die. I know you believe me an I want to say to you all once again:
Ask Christ to help you become happy. I obey Christ. After Christ's example
I forgive my persecutors. I do not hate them. I ask God to have pity on
all, and I hope my blood will fall on my fellow men as a fruitful rain."
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