Tuesday 6 February 2018

Wednesday, February 7, 2018 - St. Gonzalo Garcia - Garcia was willing to stand up for the truth even if it meant death? Are you?

To read the texts click on the texts: 2 Cor6:4-10; Mt 10:17-22

St Gonzalo Garcia (1556-1597) was born in the western coastal town of Vasai, a suburb of the city of Mumbai, on February 5, 1557.

He studied under the tutelage of the Jesuits for eight years from 1564 to 1572. At the age of fifteen, he was take to Japan by Fr. Sebastian Gonçalves, a Jesuit priest working in Vasai and who tutored Garcia.

He soon managed to learn the language and since was seen as an affable person; he soon became popular in the local community as a catechist.

Gonsalo's long cherished dream to be a Jesuit did not materialise and he moved on to Manila in the Philippines as a lay missionary. In the Philippines, he was influenced by a Franciscan priest, Fr. Peter Baptista and soon joined the Seraphic Order as a lay brother. After working with the leprosy patients there he was formally ordained as a Franciscan as the Friars Minor at Manila.

On May 26, 1592, the Spanish governor in the Philippines sent Garcia on a diplomatic mission back to Japan along with the Franciscan priest Baptista. After working for four years there, the Japanese shogun suspected the missionaries of sedition and they were placed under house arrest in their monastery in Miaco (Kyoto) on 8 December 1596. A few days afterwards, when they were singing vespers, they were arrested, handcuffed and imprisoned.

On February 5, Garcia was crucified on Nagasaki Hills with twenty six of his companions. St. Garcia was the first to be extended on, and nailed to, the cross, which was then erected in the middle of those of his companions. While being nailed, Garcia sang praises of God, earning him the martyr's title.

In 1627, Garcia and his fellow martyrs were declared as Venerable by Pope Urban VIII. On June 8, 1862 Garcia was declared a saint by Pope Pius IX.

The Gospel text for the feast of today is part of the Mission Discourse of Matthew. The sayings found in Matthew’s Mission Discourse here are found in the Eschatological Discourse of Mark (Mk 13:9-13). This is an indication that for Matthew, Mission is already eschatological and this is proved through the life and death of Garcia. The punishment, which is referred to here, is not random, but official punishment from members of organised authority. Even in this difficult situation the disciples are offered encouragement. They will depend not on their own strength, but on the Holy Spirit. They are to be missionaries even in the courtroom. Their imprisonment and trial must be regarded as an opportunity to make mission known. Mission takes priority even over family ties and if family ties have to be broken because of mission then so be it. The affirmation of the coming of the Son of Man is probably meant to provide succour to the missionaries in their distress.

Gracia had possibly read the Mission Discourse many times and that may have influenced him positively. He was also confident of the resurrection and of victory even in the face of defeat and death. He knew that if he continued to stand for the truth, he would indeed be victorious.

It is important to note that Garcia did not go around looking for trouble nor did he desire martyrdom for the sake of dying for Jesus. However, he was unafraid to stand for the truth even if it meant giving up his life.

The Jesus who challenged Garcia is the same Jesus who challenges us today. He is not calling us here to be sadists and look for suffering, persecution and pain. Rather he is challenging us to go about doing what we have to do, to be as prudent as possible about it and if despite that persecution, suffering and pain come, to be prepared and ready for it and not to be afraid.

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