Thursday 22 November 2018

Friday, November 23, 2018 - St. Michael Pro SJ - When the going gets tough, the tough get going. What do you make of this statement? Do you give up or give in when difficulties come your way? Do you throw up your hands in despair? Will you continue to persevere like Miguel Pro and trust today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 5:27-32,40-41; Mt 10:16-25

Miguel Augustin Pro was born in 1891 in Guadalupe, Mexico, one of eleven children of a mining engineer. He joined the Society of Jesus in 1911; a year after a persecution had begun in Mexico. The Jesuit novices were sent to study in other countries, and Miguel was ordained in Belgium in 1925.

The Provincial sent Pro to Mexico City in 1926, hoping a return home might relieve the priest’s chronic stomach ailment from which he suffered much. A few days after Pro arrived in Mexico City; President Calles banned all public worship. Since he was not known as a priest, Pro went about clandestinely—sometimes in disguise—celebrating Mass, distributing communion, hearing confessions, and anointing the sick. He also did as much as he could to relieve the material suffering of the poor. His quick thinking and pranks helped him in many narrow escapes.

In 1927, an assassination attempt was made on a Mexican general. A bomb was thrown from a car that had once belonged to one of Pro’s brothers. Police arrested Pro and his two younger brothers. When the man behind the plot heard that Pro had been arrested, he confessed. But to teach Catholics a lesson, with no witnesses and no trial,Pro and his two brothers were condemned to death by officials. One of the officers who had captured Pro led him out of jail to be executed. He begged Pro to forgive him. Pro put his arm around him and said, “You have not only my forgiveness but my thanks.” He also softly told the firing squad, “May God forgive you all.” Then with arms spread as if on a cross, Father Pro shouted, “Long live Christ the King!”  before  a  bullet  silenced  him. Although  the  real criminal and one of Miguel’s brothers were also shot, the other brother was pardoned at the last moment. Despite the government’s ban on a public funeral, thousands came to Pro’s wake.

Pro was beatified in 1988.

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 isalready eschatological.

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.

Jesus 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.

A parallel is then drawn between the disciples who are sent by Jesus and Jesus himself. The disciples will share the same fate as their master. His response to negative assessment of his mission was equanimity and this must be the response of the disciples’ as well. They must not retaliate, but continue to persevere in the firm hope that they will eventually succeed. They are asked to be fearless in mission.

Jesus’ suffering is the basic model for the fate of his disciples. It originates in the mission he gives them; everything Jesus says to the disciples in this discourse becomes understandable in terms of his own way. Of special importance is the element of comfort the entire story of Jesus brings to the disciples’ suffering. It takes place not only in the master’s footsteps; it stands at the same time under the perspective of his own resurrection.

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