John de Britto was a native of Lisbon, Portugal. He was born on March 1, 1647, and was martyred in India on February 11, 1693 when he was forty-six years of age.
He was dedicated at birth to St. Francis Xavier, and was a noble friend of King Pedro. He entered the Society of Jesus at the age of fifteen. In his effort to promote conversions among the native Indian people as a missionary to Goa, he wandered through Malabar and other regions and even adopted the customs and dress of the Brahmin caste which gave him access to the noble classes. His dress was yellow cotton; he abstained from every kind of animal food and from wine in an effort to be one with the people he wished to serve. In 1683, John de Britto had to leave India but returned in 1691. He advised Teriadeven, a Maravese to dismiss the many wives he had and keep only one. However, one of Teriadeven’s wives was the niece of the king. Due to this, John de Britto began to be persecuted. On February 11, 1693, he was taken to the capital Ramnad and from there led to Oriyur a small village in Tamil Nadu, where he was tortured and put to death by beheading.
He had wrought many conversions during his life, established many stations, and was famous for his miracles before and after his death. He was beatified by Pius IX, 21, August, 1853.
Pope Pius XII canonized him in 1947.
The Gospel text for the feast of John de Britto is from the Discourse of Jesus on the Vine and the Branches. The focus here is not on the relationship of Jesus and the disciples, like the earlier verses did, but on the relationship of the disciples with the “world”. Here, the word “world” is used to represent, not the physical world, but those who are opposed to God’s revelation in Jesus.
The challenge of love will be truly encountered when the community faces the “world”. The “world” will hate the disciples because of their relationship with Jesus and because they live out his teachings. If the disciples want the world to love them, they must give up the teachings of Jesus. However, because they have been chosen by Jesus and set apart from the “world”, they too, like Jesus, will have to endure the “world’s” hatred.
The disciples must realize that following and obeying Jesus, as servants obey their masters, will lead to persecution. What has happened with Jesus will be repeated in the disciples’ lives. While the authority of the one sent is the same as the sender, it is also true that the response to the one sent will be the same as the response to the sender. Those who do not accept the word of truth, spoken by God in Jesus, will indulge in persecution. Those who accept the word will respond by living out that word in their lives. Rejection of the disciples means rejection of Jesus because it is Jesus who sends them. Rejection of Jesus means rejection of God who sent him.
In a world in which the resonating message is to “have more”, it is not always easy to speak and live Jesus’ message to “be more”. Those who do this are labeled as crazy and out of touch with reality. John de Britto was not afraid to do this and was ready to face the consequences. He was ready because he was part of the vine to live and die as Jesus did. He stood up for the truth right to the very end.