To read the texts click on the texts: Phil 4:4-9; Lk 9:57-62
John Berchmans SJ Born in Brabant (Netherlands/Belgium) on 13th March, 1599. He joined the Society of Jesus on 24th September 1616 when he was 17 years of age. After his first vows he was sent to Antwerp and a little later to Rome to study Philosophy. He was in his third year of Philosophy, when he was seized with a violent fever and died on 13th August, 1621.
Though he was a Jesuit for only a short period of time and was not ordained a priest, he was known even as a young Jesuit for his piety, devotion and focus. He learned the secret of living in the present moment. He was known to do even the most ordinary and mundane tasks as if it was to be the last task of his life. It was said of him that he did ordinary things extraordinarily well. Because of his devotion to the Eucharist and his regular service at the Altar he is the Patron of Altar Servers.
He was declared Blessed in 1865, and was canonized in 1888. His statues represent him with hands clasped, holding his crucifix, his book of rules, and his rosary.
The Gospel text for the feast is from the Gospel of Luke and is about the would-be followers of Jesus, and Jesus’ warnings about what discipleship will entail.
To the first would-be follower who promises to follow Jesus wherever he goes, Jesus responds by stating clearly that unlike even the foxes that at least have holes, he does not have anywhere he can call his own. If the would-be follower is ready for this insecurity, he may follow.
The second person is called to follow by Jesus, but responds by asking for permission to bury his father. This was a duty that was binding on all devout Jews. Jesus’ response is harsh and demands that the disciple be primarily concerned about the kingdom.
The third would-be follower puts conditions to his following namely that he wants to say farewell to his family. However, here too the response of Jesus is clear. Looking back while ploughing leads to a crooked furrow.
In total contrast to the three examples of persons mentioned in the text, John Berchmans was one who was ready to follow his Lord in total poverty, and did not once look back once he put his hand to the plough. He was focussed on the kingdom and kept that focus till the very end.
While it is not necessary to give up the state of life one has chosen in order to follow Jesus, what is to be understood is that following will necessarily mean changing one’s style of life. It will mean a move from selfishness to selflessness, from acquiring material possessions to sharing them with others and from anything negative to everything that is positive.