"He will be gracious to you when you cry out, ... The Lord will give you the bread you need and the water for which you thirst. No longer will your Teacher hide himself.," Isaiah 30
"Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom, and curing every disease and illness. ... 'The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.' " Matthew 9
Today is the Memorial of St. Francis Xavier, S.J., a great feast for us Jesuits. Today is also the beginning of Jubilee Year celebrating three of the early companions who founded the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits. This year we recognize the 450th anniversary of St. Ignatius of Loyola's death and the 500th anniversary of the birth of Francis Xavier and Pierre Favre. They represent the vision, the missionary zeal and gift of giving the Spiritual Exercises that are central to Ignatian Spirituality.
What makes Xavier so great for us Jesuits, and what has made him the patron of missionaries - which he shares with St.Thérèse of Lisieux - is his passion and zeal. Ignatius won Xavier over at the University of Paris, when he was able to give him the Spiritual Exercises. For the rest of his life, Xavier was on fire with the desire to be a servant of his Lord and Savior's mission from the Father to save souls. There must have been an incredible bond between these men. However, Xavier was the first of the companions that Ignatius sent on mission - first to India, then Japan and on to the very shores of China. I can't imagine how difficult it must have been for Ignatius and Xavier to say "good-bye" to each other, yet I have some sense of how their common love for their Lord, Jesus, filled them with an inner freedom to be at his service, offering themselves for whatever was for the greater glory of God and the service of others.
Xavier entered a world he could not have been prepared for. Everything was different from his Spanish, French and Italian experience. His challenge was more than learning new languages. He was face to face with new cultures. We are so familiar with the idea of different cultures. Imagine encountering the very notion of a different world view, totally different beliefs and traditons, for the first time. At first, he simply baptized people. Then he translated prayers into their language. By the time he reached Japan, Xavier got the sense that he needed to enter their culture, and leave behind much of his own. Throughout his life, it was his deep love for Jesus that gave so much passion to his desire to tell others about Jesus.
It remains for us today to examine our zeal. Advent is a wonderful time to taste our longing to be closer to our Lord, to grow in a relationship that senses his own desires and ways, to grow in love and a desire to be with and like the one who loved me first. This time of expectant, hopeful longing is for one purpose: to help us know the One who comes to us, to be with us and to send us with the Good News of God's love for us. We are, at times, far too afraid to share our faith with others. We prefer to "respect" where they are. We know God will love every person and that there is somehow a path to God in every human heart. But, if we believe the Good News - and all that it means about love that is victorious over sin and death - if it overwhelms us with gratitude, there will naturally grow in us a desire to tell others at least the wonderful good fortune we have experienced for ourselves. In the very least, falling more deeply in love with Jesus will make of us missionaries of justice, desiring with passion that each person on this earth thrives as a child of God with the dignity that they deserve.
Dear Francis, intercede for our hearts during this Advent season, that God's kingdom might come, and our sisters and brothers might know God's goodness and unconditional love. Amen.
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