19 Oct – Memorial for Ss John de Brébeuf, Isaac Jogues, Priests, and Companions, Martyrs; Memorial for St Paul of the Cross, Priest
John de Brebeuf (1593–1649) was a French Jesuit. He wanted to enter the priesthood since young, but his health was so bad there were doubts he could make it. His posting as a missionary to frontier Canada at the age of 32 was a literal godsend. He spent the rest of his life there, and the harsh and hearty climate so agreed with him that the Natives, surprised at his endurance, called him “Echon”, which means “load bearer”. His massive size made them think twice about sharing a canoe with him for fear of sinking.
John had great difficulty learning the Huron language. “You may have been a famous professor or theologian in France,” he wrote in a letter home, “but here you will merely be a student, and with what teachers! The Huron language will be your Aristla crosse.” However, he eventually wrote a catechism in Huron, and a French-Huron dictionary for use by other missionaries.
According to the histories of the game, it was John who named the present-day version of the Indian game “lacrosse” because the stick used reminded him of a bishop’s crosier (la crosse).
He was martyred in 1649, tortured to death by the Iroquois. By 1650, the Huron nation was exterminated, and the laboriously built mission was abandoned. But it proved to be “one of the triumphant failures that are commonplace in the Church’s history”. These martyrdoms created a wave of vocations and missionary fervour in France, and it gave new heart to the missionaries in New France.
– Patron Saint Index
Isaac Jogues (1607–1646) joined the Jesuits at Rouen, France in 1624. He was ordained a priest and taught literature. He became a missionary to New France (Canada) in 1636, starting in Quebec and working among the Hurons and Petuns in the area of the Great Lakes. This was a rough assignment – not only were the living conditions hard, but the locals blamed the “Blackrobes” for any disease, ill luck, or other problems that occurred where they were.
He was captured on 3 August 1642 by the Mohawks, enslaved, tortured and mutilated for 13 months, but he taught the Faith to any who would listen. With the help of local Dutch settlers he finally escaped and was sent back to France to recover.
In 1644, he returned to Canada to continue his work with the natives and negotiate peace with the Iroquois. He was martyred with fellow Jesuit priest John de Brebeuf and several lay missionaries when the natives blamed Christian sorcery for an epidemic and crop failure. He is one of the North America Martyrs.
– Patron Saint Index
Paul of the Cross (1694–1775) was the son of a merchant and a pious youth. After receiving a vision and while still a layman, he founded the Congregation of Discalced Clerks of the Most Holy Cross and Passion (Passionists) in 1721 to preach about Jesus Crucified. He was a preacher of such power that hardened soldiers and bandits were seen to weep.
The community lived a penitential life, in solitude and poverty, teaching people in the easiest possible way how to meditate on the Passion of Jesus. He was ordained in 1727 along with his brother John Baptist by Pope Benedict XIII. After ordination, they devoted themselves to preaching missions in parishes, particularly in remote country places where there were insufficient priests pastorally involved. Their preaching apostolate and the retreats they gave in seminaries and religious houses brought their mission to the attention of others and gradually the community began to grow.
However, the austere life of the Passionists did not encourage large numbers and at one point all the brothers in the Order deserted him. But Paul preferred a slow, at times painful, growth to something more spectacular. In 1741 his Rule was approved by Pope Benedict XIV, and the community began to grow again.
During his lifetime, Paul of the Cross was best known as a popular preacher and a spiritual director. More than two thousand of his letters, most of them letters of spiritual direction, have been preserved. By the time of his death, the congregation had 80 fathers and brothers. He is considered among the greatest Catholic mystics of the 18th century.
– Patron Saint Index, Wikipedia
You must not let sin reign in your mortal bodies or command your obedience to bodily passions, you must not let any part of your body turn into an unholy weapon fighting on the side of sin; you should, instead, offer yourselves to God, and consider yourselves dead men brought back to life; you should make every part of your body into a weapon fighting on the side of God; and then sin will no longer dominate your life, since you are living by grace and not by law.
Does the fact that we are living by grace and not by law mean that we are free to sin? Of course not. You know that if you agree to serve and obey a master you become his slaves. You cannot be slaves of sin that leads to death and at the same time slaves of obedience that leads to righteousness. You were once slaves of sin, but thank God you submitted without reservation to the creed you were taught. You may have been freed from the slavery of sin, but only to become ‘slaves’ of righteousness.
Jesus said to his disciples:
‘You may be quite sure of this, that if the householder had known at what hour the burglar would come, he would not have let anyone break through the wall of his house. You too must stand ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.’
Peter said, ‘Lord, do you mean this parable for us, or for everyone?’ The Lord replied, ‘What sort of steward, then, is faithful and wise enough for the master to place him over his household to give them their allowance of food at the proper time? Happy that servant if his master’s arrival finds him at this employment. I tell you truly, he will place him over everything he owns. But as for the servant who says to himself, “My master is taking his time coming,” and sets about beating the menservants and the maids, and eating and drinking and getting drunk, his master will come on a day he does not expect and at an hour he does not know. The master will cut him off and send him to the same fate as the unfaithful.
The servant who knows what his master wants, but has not even started to carry out those wishes, will receive very many strokes of the lash. The one who did not know, but deserves to be beaten for what he has done, will receive fewer strokes. When a man has had a great deal given him, a great deal will be demanded of him; when a man has had a great deal given him on trust, even more will be expected of him.’
If the Lord had not been on our side
When I read the verses for today’s reading, this verse in particular leapt out at me. I was struck by it and reflected on the meaning of this verse in my life. Looking back, I must say, there are many instances in my life where God has stood by me. The instances I remembered the most happened when I felt the least “honourable” and worthy enough of his presence in my life.
I suspect one of the hardest messages that I find difficult to accept internally is this – that God is actually on my side. If life was like a soccer game, he would actually be on my team. Unfortunately, I find this hard to grapple with. Maybe it’s because, somewhere deep within me, I tend to have this idea of God as a referee. I tend to think that he’s always on the look out to see where I’m gonna foul up. Then he’ll blow his whistle and send me off the pitch, where I’ll be left sitting out on a bench in the cold. I think that’s the subconscious image I actually have of him.
In today’s readings however, St Paul reminds us that God is no longer our referee. Why? Because of Jesus and his work on the cross. Romans 8 clearly states that “God dealt with sin by sending his own Son in a body as physical as any sinful body, and IN THAT BODY GOD CONDEMNED SIN.” What does this mean? It means that in order to free us from the bondage of sin, God condemned sin, once and for all, in the body of Jesus His son!
Thus, by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, our sins past, present and future have already been paid for. This means that when you and I sin, God does not look at us remembering our transgressions. (If He did, we would have been struck dead immediately like the Israelites in the Old Testament!) Rather, when he looks at us, he sees instead our sins cleansed in the blood of Jesus, His son. Does this give us the license to sin? “Of course not!” St Paul says. Our lack of regard for God’s grace however, does not in any way detract from the power of Jesus’ sacrifice and it’s impact on us as co-heirs in Christ! We have already been forgiven! Who authored our forgiveneness? God, himself did! Thus, why would he wait, like a referee, to charge us for our sins?
Sometimes, I think the devil likes to have us trapped in a lie – that God is a hundred times more interested in our sins than He truly is. Why would the devil do that? Because it leaves us paralysed by our iniquities. It causes us to be hampered by our fears and crippled by our own frailty. Rather than lifting our eyes to the one who has the power to save us, we keep our sight focused instead on our own brokeness. As a result, we shun God. And like Adam and Eve, we become so self-conscious that we end up covering ourselves with other things to hide ourselves away from God’s intimacy.
Beloved, let us not be deceived by the enemy. Instead, let us remember that GOD IS FOR US. He is on our team. He has always been! Right from the beginning of time. And he has given us Christ to prove it! Instead of seeing God as a referee, let us look to Him as the star defender and the star striker on our team, who will not be satisfied just rooting for us from the sidelines. He’s in the game with us and covering us every step of the way. Are you currently facing a challenging period right now? Worried that the enemy’s going to score a goal against you? Our God will defend you. He will deflect that blow and shield you. Uncertain if you should embark on an endeavour? Worried that you’ll tremble and miss that shot? Our God will guide you. He will strike the enemy and score that goal for you. You just need to thrust the ball to him. That’s all you need to do.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Cassandra Cheong)
Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for ourselves and for all who are struggling in our relationship with you. Help us to remember that our sins are not an issue for you. Help us to remember that in your gracious mercy, we have already been forgiven. Guard our hearts and our minds against the lies of the devil that constantly reminds us of our unworthiness of you. Above all, cover us in the healing blood of Jesus, your Son, and empower us Lord to quickly turn to you, especially when we fall.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for being our star striker and defender and for covering us with the blood of Jesus your Son.
Thu, 20 Oct – Romans 6:19-23; Luke 12:49-53
Fri, 21 Oct – Romans 7:18-25; Luke 12:54-59
Sat, 22 Oct – Romans 8:1-11; Luke 13:1-9
Sun, 23 Oct – Exodus 22:20-26; 1 Thessalonians 1:5-10; Matthew 22:34-40; Thirteeth Sunday of Ordinary Time