St. Jean de Brebeuf, (1593 – 1649), was a French born Jesuit missionary and martyr of New France who arrived in America in 1625 to evangelise Native Americans. He lived among the Huron for over 15 years under difficult and challenging circumstances. In 1648 the Iroquois launched a war of extermination against the Huron, their traditional enemies. Refusing to flee when their Huron villlage was attacked, Brebeuf and his assistant, Gabriel Lalemant, were captured the following year and tortured to death by the Iroquois. He did not make a single outcry while he was being tortured and he astounded the Iroquois, who later cut out his heart and ate it in hopes of gaining his courage.
Brebeuf was canonised in 1930 with seven other missionaries who are collectively called the North American martyrs.
The Gospel text chosen for the feast is form the Gospel of Matthew. The sayings in these verses are addressed exclusively to the disciples unlike in Mark where they are addressed to the crowds. A disciple must be prepared to follow the Master and even to the cross if need be. This is the consequence of confessing Jesus as the Christ. The Son of Man has to suffer, but will also be vindicated by God. The pronouncement “some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom” (16,28) has been variously interpreted. Some think it refers to the event of the Transfiguration, others think it refers to the Resurrection and still others that it refers to Pentecost. However, it seems that Matthew’s community expected that the Parousia (the second coming of the Lord) would come soon, indeed before the death of some who belonged to the community, and so there are some who think that this pronouncement refers to the Second coming of the Lord.
‘Denial of self’ means to regard the self as nothing. While this sounds nice to hear and sing in hymns, it requires grace from God if it is to be into practice. Jesus had to constantly overcome this temptation himself and challenges each of us through his words but also through the example that he gave on the cross.