6 Feb – Memorial for Sts. Paul Miki and Companions, martyrs (in Japan)
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 3:4-13
The apostles rejoined Jesus and told him all they had done and taught. Then he said to them, ‘You must come away to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for a while’; for there were so many coming and going that the apostles had no time even to eat. So they went off in a boat to a lonely place where they could be by themselves. But people saw them going, and many could guess where; and from every town they all hurried to the place on foot and reached it before them. So as he stepped ashore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he set himself to teach them at some length.
Lord, teach me your statutes
Two of the spiritual works of mercy are to counsel the doubtful and to instruct the ignorant. Sometimes we are shy to share about our faith because we do not know the contents within the faith. I do find it interesting that we can probably unlock never ending levels of achievements in the games in our mobile devices but remain at a very basic level of understanding of what our Catholic Faith stands for and the actions it requires of us. The readings of today are great examples for us to take the two steps needed to achieve the two spiritual works of mercy; to pray to God for wisdom and to be bold enough to ask for wisdom and use.
Wisdom and knowledge are two very different aspects. Knowledge is a body of facts and points on a particular subject and area in which we specialize. However, wisdom is the constant practice of using this knowledge within us to navigate the ambiguities and uncertainties of the world we live in. King Solomon prayed to God for wisdom to be a wise king and his wish was granted. However, King Solomon forgot the injunctions of his father David and strayed away from God later on in his life. Jesus shows us that our actions do matter and that when grounded in the wisdom of doing what is right, we will always have a heart for the people of God, especially for those who thirst for God’s love. This wisdom is not suddenly thrusted down upon us by is cultivated and deepened through prayer with God.
The ability for each one of us to discover how we are to carry out His plan is something which we need to spend time on in a period of discernment which occurs at regular intervals in our lives. We could speak to the people around us who are in a position to know how things are in our spiritual life and also to listen to the Lord speak to us spiritually in prayer. We have to make the decision at the end as to how we can carry out the task but it can be one grounded in reasons of faith and joy.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)
Prayer – Dear Father, we pray for all the people who love us.
Thanksgiving – We give thanks for all Spiritual Directors.