The Feast of North American Martyrs
(Ephesians 3: 2 – 12 ; Resp. Isaiah 12; Luke 12: 39 – 48)
Three times in the reading from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians he speaks of God’s grace given to him to “preach to the Gentiles the inscrutable riches of Christ.” This grace was so great, so consuming that he gave his life like Christ his Master “to the end.” We know from his writings what it cost him physically, spiritually, and emotionally. Whatever he suffered, he knew with the greatest certainty that it was this grace, this touch of God deep into his heart that he could proclaim “For me, to live is Christ.”
Today we celebrate the feast of the North American Martyrs, Sts. John de Brebeuf, Isaac Jogues and their Companions. Jesuits, men very much like St. Paul having embraced the grace of God they, with great freedom, left all to preach the Gospel and make known the Lordship of Jesus to the native people of North America. And it cost them dearly; they left the culture, the civilization of France to live with and serve a people whose culture was diametrically opposed to what they had known – and this alone was a martyrdom. They stayed, they served, they proclaimed Jesus Christ by their words and especially by their example.
Everyday, at any moment, they lived under the threat of death, and being human, surely they felt the terrible weight of this, the unknown terror. Torture, beatings, death by ﬁre – it was there before them. And they gave their lives completely. They lived St. Paul’s wisdom: “Those who be; long to Christ Jesus have cruciﬁed their ﬂesh with its passions and desires.” (Gal 5:24)
What can we take from their example, from St. Paul’s example? Perhaps this
– they were very, very aware of God’s grace graciously given and gratefully received so much so that they lived that grace to the end. They made Christ known even though the message was rejected, ridiculed. We are supported, touched, held by God’s grace – how aware am I of this, how grateful am I of this? Am I willing to reach out to others in, with, through the love of the Lord Jesus – even if it is refused, ignored? In the reality of my life, what does God’s grace mean to me?…really.