Sunday 3 December 2017

December 3, 2017 - St. Francis Xavier SJ - Will I in imitation of Francis Xavier keep on keeping on or will I give in and give up at the slightest sign of trouble?

To read the texts click on the texts: Zeph 3:9-10,14-20; Rm 10:8-17; Mt 28:16-20

Francisco  de  Jaso  y  Azpilicueta  (Francis  Xavier) was born on April 7, 1506 in Javier (Xavier), Kingdom of Navarre (present day Spain). In 1525, having completed a preliminary course of studies in his own country, he went to Paris, where he entered the Collège de Sainte-Barbe. Here he met the Savoyard, Pierre Favre (Peter Faber), and a warm personal friendship sprang up between them.

It was at this same college that Ignatius Loyola, who was already planning the foundation of the Society of Jesus, resided for a time as a guest in 1529. Ignatius soon won the confidence of both Favre first and later Xavier.  They offered themselves with him in the formation of the Society. Four others, Lainez, Salmerón, Rodríguez, and Bobadilla, having joined them, the seven made the famous vow of Montmartre, on August 15, 1534.

After completing his studies in Paris and filling the post of teacher there for some time, Xavier left the city with his companions on November 15, 1536, and turned his steps to Venice, where he displayed zeal and charity in attending the sick in the hospitals. On June 24, 1537, he was ordained priest along with Ignatius. The following year he went to Rome, and after doing apostolic work there for appointed, at the earnest solicitation of the John III, King of Portugal, to evangelize the people of the East Indies. He left Rome on March 16, 1540, and reached Lisbon about June. He remained there for nine months, and was noted for his apostolic zeal.

On April 7, 1541, he embarked in a sailing vessel for India, and after a tedious and dangerous voyage landed at Goa on May 6, 1542. The first five months were spent in preaching and ministering to the sick in the hospitals. He would go through the streets ringing a little bell and inviting the children to hear the word of God. When he had gathered a number, he would take them to a certain church and would there explain the catechism to them. About October, 1542, he started for the pearl fisheries of the extreme southern coast of the peninsula, desirous of restoring Christianity which, although introduced years before,  had  almost  disappeared  on  account  of  the  lack of priests. He devoted almost three years to the work of preaching to the people of Western India, converting many, and reaching in his journeys even the Island of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka).

Many were the difficulties and hardships which Xavier had to encounter at this time; yet he persevered and never gave up. In the spring of 1545 Xavier started for Malacca. He worked there for the last months of that year, and although he was successful, he was not as successful as he would have liked to be. About January 1546, Xavier left Malacca and went to Molucca Islands, where the Portuguese had some settlements, and for a year and a half he preached the Gospel to the inhabitants of Amboyna, Ternate, Baranura, and other islands in that area. It is claimed by some that during this expedition he landed on the island of Mindanao, and for this reason St. Francis Xavier has been called the first Apostle of the Philippines.

By July, 1547, he was again in Malacca. Here he met a Japanese called Anger (Han-Sir), from whom he obtained much information about Japan. His zeal was at once aroused by the idea of introducing Christianity into Japan, but for the time being the affairs of the Society of Jesus demanded his presence at Goa, and so he went there taking Anger with him. During the six years that Xavier had been working among the people, other Jesuit missionaries had arrived at Goa, sent from Europe by St. Ignatius; moreover some who had been born in India had been received into the Society.

In 1548 Xavier sent these Jesuits to the principal centres of India, where he had established missions, so that the work might be preserved and continued. He also established a novitiate and house of studies.

He started with Cosme de Torres, a Spanish priest whom he had met in the Maluccaand Brother Juan Fernández for Japan towards the end of June, 1549. The Japanese Anger, who had been baptized at Goa and given the name of Pablo de Santa Fe, accompanied them. They landed at the city of Kagoshima in Japan, on August 15, 1549. The entire first year was devoted to learning the Japanese language and translating into Japanese, with the help of Pablo de Santa Fe, the principal articles of faith and short treatises which were to be employed in preaching and catechizing. When he was able to express himself, Xavier began preaching and made some converts, but these aroused the ill will of the Bonzes, who had him banished from the city. Leaving Kagoshima  about  August,  1550,  he  penetrated  to  the centre of Japan, and preached the Gospel in some of the cities of southern Japan. Towards the end of that year he reached Meaco, then the principal city of Japan, but he was unable to make any headway here. He retraced his steps to the centre of Japan, and during 1551 preached in some important cities, forming the nucleus of several Christian communities, which in time increased with extraordinary rapidity.

After working about two years and a half in Japan he left this mission in charge of Cosme de Torres and Juan Fernández, and returned to Goa, arriving there at the beginning of 1552. He then turned his thoughts to China, and began to plan an expedition there. During his stay in Japan he had heard much of the Celestial Empire, and was anxious to spread the Gospel there. In the autumn of 1552, he arrived in a Portuguese vessel at the small island of Sancian near the coast of China. While planning the best means for reaching the mainland, he was taken ill, and as the movement of the vessel seemed to aggravate his condition, he was removed to the land, where a hut had been built to shelter him. In these poor surroundings he breathed his last.

One can only wonder at the apostolic zeal of Francis Xavier who in the short span of ten years traversed so many seas and visited so many countries to preach the Gospel. He is regarded as the Patron of Missions primarily for these reasons. He was beatified in 1619 and canonized with St. Ignatius in 1622.

The Gospel text from Matthew is from the last chapter and verses of the Gospel. They contain an appearance of the risen Jesus to the eleven disciples on a mountain in Galilee. The disciples are obedient to Jesus’ instructions because at the start of the text they are already at the mountain. The mountain is not named, but is a theological topos in Matthew. The mountain brings to mind the mountain of the temptation of Jesus (4:8) of the Sermon of the Mount (5:1) and of his transfiguration (17:1). In the first of these incidents, Jesus was offered all power and authority by the Devil, but refused to accept it. Now, God has given all power to Jesus. In the second, Jesus taught authoritatively (7:29) from the mountain, here he commands his disciples to teach as he taught. In the third, Jesus gave the three disciples only a glimpse of his future glory, now he reveals himself as totally glorified.

Matthew does not focus on the external appearance of Jesus because he wants the focus to be on Jesus’ words. The words of Jesus may be seen to be divided into three parts. They contain a Christological, an Ecclesiological and an Eschatological statement.

The Christological statement is that Jesus’ power and authority are now unbounded. The same Jesus, who was for a while mistreated by all, crucified on the cross, abandoned by God even at the point of his death, died and was buried, is now the Jesus in whose hands everything rests.
This statement leads to the Mission command to the disciples and explicates what ’Church’ means. The authority of the ‘Church’ has its foundation in the authority of Jesus. The ‘Church’ goes out to all nations with the authority of Jesus. No one or place is excluded. This Church is called to ‘make disciples’ primarily not by baptising people but by teaching them to observe the commands of Jesus. These commands may be summed up in the command to love (22:36-39). When one loves one’s neighbour as one loves oneself, then Church becomes present and visible.
The final verse of the Gospel is a promise of the abiding presence of the Lord with his disciples. Jesus, who fulfilled the “Emmanuel” prophecy in his life time, is the risen Lord who assures the disciples of his constant and ever abiding presence.

The manner in which Xavier lived his life and did Mission was one which shows that he had understood the Mission command of Jesus as it was meant to be understood. Through this person he touched the lives of all he came in contact with and revealed God as a God of love. Through his writings, he reached out far beyond the boundaries of his own country, indeed to the whole world.

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