December 3, 2022
by Mike Cherney
Creighton University's Physics Department
click here for photo and information about the writer

Memorial of Saint Francis Xavier, Priest
Lectionary: 180

Isaiah 30:19-21, 23-26
Psalm 147:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
Matthew 9:35–10:1, 5A, 6-8

Beginning Advent

Praying Advent Home Page

A brief bio on Jesuit Saint Francis Xavier

Experiencing Advent Deeply for Busy People
Desiring Patient Fidelity  

Learning Perseverance in Difficult Times

In today’s first reading from Isaiah, better days are promised to Israel. The verses from the Psalm are a hymn of praise to God’s goodness, with the response taken from the verse from Isaiah which just proceeds today’s first reading. The Gospel has Jesus showing his compassion and missioning his disciples to go out and carry on His work. While these are the normal Lectionary texts for Advent, the Gospel seems particularly appropriate to today’s feast of Saint Francis Xavier.

My sense is that the first reading and psalm are making the point that our primary trust should be in God. (For context, the passage from Isaiah is proceeded by warnings about political alliances for security.) The texts make clear the benefits that God will offer, but we must wait. The word Advent has Latin roots meaning arrival or coming. Today’s readings favor that second meaning. Patience is not my strong suit. During the 1970’s Heinz Ketchup commercials dubbed with the Carly Simon song “Anticipation”, I would think to myself just put a knife in the bottle and get it out. The invention of the squeeze bottle showed that I was not the only one who did not like to wait. When I reflect on my own experiences of waiting for a family member, I go through the stages of anticipation of the arrival, anger that the arrival is not when I anticipated, worry that something has happened and the arrival has been compromised, and finally relief at the actual arrival. (Perhaps this is why I always had a greater appreciation of the liturgical season of Lent.) I guess that experiences of accidents happening or experiences of being “stood up” shape one’s response to waiting. I can commiserate with the Israelites and see why these passages might have emphasized the “worth waiting for”.

When I read today’s Gospel, I was reminded of John F Kennedy’s inaugural address which concludes "here on earth God’s work must truly be our own." (Rereading its full text, I was reminded how many of the issues of 1961 remain issues today.) I can imagine that 500 years ago, St. Ignatius and his initial followers had many of the same responses to this Gospel of compassion and missioning. Francis Xavier, whom we commemorate today, was among these founding members of the Society of Jesus. He spent the last 11 years of his life (dying at only 46 years of age) on a mission initially to India and then repeatedly to the Far East. His was a mission in line with Jesus’ charge in today’s Gospel. While many of the existing clergy in India saw their role as being in service to the Portuguese (Francis Xavier was also given a royal charge of restoring Christianity to Portuguese fortune seekers.), he often chose to build his community from the grassroots based on service to the indigenous population including a willingness to recognize the language and ways of other cultures. His concern for the poor and sick, along with the development of local leaders showed the same aspects of compassion which I read in today’s description of Jesus.

Dear Lord,
Grant me trust in Your promises.
Strengthen my patience recognizing that which is “worth waiting for”.
Forgive me for the moments when I capitulate out of weakness.
Help me to identify my mission of service that is based on compassion.

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