Paul Miki (Paulus Miki, 1564-1597), Soan John de Goto and James Kisai were the first of a long line of Jesuits who desired to live and die in imitation of their crucified Lord. Miki was also the first Japanese religious to be martyred.
Paul Miki was educated at the Jesuit college of Anziquiama, joined the Jesuits in 1580, and became known for his eloquent preaching.
The initial growth of Christianity after Francis Xavier's 1549 arrival in Japan led to opposition from Japanese leaders who feared that the introduction of Christianity was the first step in Spain's effort to conquer their country. Japan's ruler, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, banished all foreign ministers in 1587, but the decree was not rigidly implemented and Jesuits were able to continue their work under the threat of persecution. Remarks made in 1596 by the captain of a shipwrecked Spanish ship led Hideyoshi to order the arrest of all Franciscans who had come to Japan from the Philippines three years earlier. Along with the Franciscans, police arrested the Jesuits Paul Miki, a scholastic, and James Kisai, a brother, and Soan John de Goto, a catechist who was in the process of entering the Society.
He was crucified on February 5, 1597 along with Soan John de Goto and James Kisai and with twenty-three other Catholics during the persecution of Christians under the Taiko, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, ruler of Japan in the name of the emperor. They were all canonized as the Martyrs of Japan in 1862.
The Gospel text chosen for the feast of today of today begins immediately after Jesus has spoken the woes against the Pharisees and scribes. Though there is a large crowd, which has gathered, Jesus speaks first to his disciples cautioning them against the yeast of the Pharisees.
Next he speaks about how the disciple who engages in Mission must be fearless, since God is always in control. Even the sparrow which is so insignificant when compared to human beings is looked after by God therefore, there is no need to be afraid, because a God who is and will always remain, Father, will judge us.
Though Jesus constantly revealed God as unconditional love, many of us still relate to him from fear. This is the reason why we wear masks before him and consequently before others. We are afraid to be ourselves. If we begin to realise that our God is a God who primarily wants to save, we can improve our relationship with him and with others. The challenge that Jesus posed to his disciples, to Paul Miki and his companions and to us today is to acknowledge him before all people. Paul Miki and his companions did acknowledge Jesus not only through their preaching of his word, but more importantly through their manner of life. They lived fearless and courageous lives and were not afraid to die for their faith in unconditional love.
The feast of today and the readings of today challenge each one of us to dare to do the same.