06 Feb – Memorial for Sts. Paul Miki and Companions, Martyrs
Paul Miki (1562-1597) was one of the Twenty-six Martyrs of Japan. He was born into a rich family and educated by Jesuits in Azuchi and Takatsuki. He joined the Society of Jesus and preached the gospel for his fellow citizens. The Japanese government feared Jesuit influences and persecuted them. He was jailed among others.
He and his Christian peers were forced to walk 600 miles from Kyoto while singing Te Deum as a punishment for the community. Finally they arrived at Nagasaki, the city which had the most conversions to Christianity, and he was crucified on 5 February 1597. He preached his last sermon from the cross, and it is maintained that he forgave his executioners stating that he himself was Japanese. Alongside him died Joan Soan (de Goto) and Santiago Kisai, of the Society of Jesus, in addition to 23 clergy and laity, all of whom were canonized by Pope Pius IX in 1862.
On 15 August 1549, St. Francis Xavier, Father Cosme de Torres, SJ, and Father John Fernandez arrived in Kagoshima, Japan, from Spain with hopes of bringing Catholicism to Japan. On Sep 29, St. Francis Xavier visit Shimazu Takahisa, the daimyo of Kagoshima, asking for permission to build the first Catholic mission in Japan. The daimyo agreed in hopes of creating a trade relationship with Europe.
A promising beginning to those missions – perhaps as many as 300,000 Christians by the end of the 16th century – met complications from competition between the missionary groups, political difficulty between Spain and Portugal, and factions within the government of Japan. Christianity was suppressed. By 1630, Christianity was driven underground.
The first Martyrs of Japan are commemorated on Feb 5 when, on that date in 1597, 26 missionaries and converts were killed by crucifixion. 250 years later, when Christian missionaries returned to Japan, they found a community of Japanese Christians that had survived underground.
1 Kings 8:1-7.9-13
Solomon called the elders of Israel together in Jerusalem to bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord up from the Citadel of David, which is Zion. All the men of Israel assembled round King Solomon in the month of Ethanim, at the time of the feast (that is, the seventh month), and the priests took up the ark and the Tent of Meeting with all the sacred vessels that were in it. In the presence of the ark, King Solomon and all Israel sacrificed sheep and oxen, countless, innumerable. The priests brought the ark of the covenant of the Lord to its place, in the Debir of the Temple, that is, in the Holy of Holies, under the cherubs’ wings. For there where the ark was placed the cherubs spread out their wings and sheltered the ark and its shafts. There was nothing in the ark except the two stone tablets Moses had placed in it at Horeb, the tablets of the covenant which the Lord had made with the Israelites when they came out of the land of Egypt; they are still there today.
Now when the priests came out of the sanctuary, the cloud filled the Temple of the Lord, and because of the cloud the priests could no longer perform their duties: the glory of the Lord filled the Lord’s Temple.
Then Solomon said:
‘The Lord has chosen to dwell in the thick cloud.
Yes, I have built you a dwelling,
a place for you to live in for ever.’
Having made the crossing, Jesus and his disciples came to land at Gennesaret and tied up. No sooner had they stepped out of the boat than people recognised him, and started hurrying all through the countryside and brought the sick on stretchers to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went, to village, or town, or farm, they laid down the sick in the open spaces, begging him to let them touch even the fringe of his cloak. And all those who touched him were cured.
The glory of the Lord filled the Lord’s Temple
I believe that the difference between a genuine person working in ministry and another who is doing it for his own selfish reasons can be seen in the disposition of the person in carrying out his tasks. The latter is often seen to be using the ways of the world to manage people and situations which sometimes may turn out to be uncharitable. The former’s attitude can be discerned from the person’s prayer life and also the way he works with others.
Many people, including myself, underestimate the power of prayer in transforming lives. I often pondered how people could recognise that somebody is a holy person. I guess deep within us lies the ability to see God in the person and this is viewed with the eyes of faith and not of sight. In today’s Gospel, it could be seen that the people rushed to bring to Jesus all that were ill. Perhaps this is due to the fact that Jesus’s reputation preceded Him but I like to believe that they saw in Him something that the existing Jewish religious leaders did not possess.
Each of us are called to spread the love of God to all whom we meet and indeed this is only possible if we continue to pray unceasingly. Before we begin each action in our lives, let us remember the importance of orienting ourselves towards God.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)
Prayer: Lord may we always remember to pray
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for those who pray for the world.