Memorial of Saint Paul Miki and Companions, Martyrs

Heb 12:4-7,11-15; Ps 103:1,2,13,14,17,18a; Mk 6:1-6:  Saint Paul Miki and his fellow martyrs were the faithful ones who cried out for joy in their witness to the treasure of the Kingdom of God. The Father’s promise of life eternal in his Son, Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit was the treasure more precious than life in this world.  These Japanese converts were, Jesuit priests, Jesuit Brothers, carpenters, and cooks. In their own communities they were a threat to the Emperor and his sovereign majesty.  These believers were accused of giving to God what belonged to the Emperor.  Such a dangerous attitude was an insult to the traditions of the people, and it reeked of the possible western domination of Japan.  However, these bold martyrs kept the word of the Lord in their hearts, and they refused to stray from the Lord and his commands.  Merrily they came before the LORD.  Today we join these Martyrs in blessing the Lord and never forgetting all his benefits.  From his throne above all other thrones, the Lord judges, and his judgment is mercy. The Lord, who rules over all, offers all his pardon and his mercy. As far as the east is from the west, so far has he put our transgressions from us.  Even the transgressions of those who killed our brothers and sisters, the martyrs of Japan, are offered forgiveness.

 The movement of the saints through purification, enlightenment, and into the transforming union enables them to triumph over temptation to the point of self-sacrifice.  Shedding one’s blood does not frighten a saint who is more attracted to the heart of God than he is afraid of loosing his own heart in martyrdom.  They were not afraid when accused of being anti Japan by being pro Christ.  The Lord Jesus loves his children who are not afraid of the truth no matter how twisted and distorted it is understood by those around them.  The trials of his holy ones are seen as discipline by the LORD who reveals his loving intentions in his well-planned disciplines; indeed, He scourges every son he acknowledges.  We have much to learn from the holy martyrs.  At the time of their trials, which are seen in faith as discipline, the martyrs feel the pain but gradually also begin to feel the joy, which eventually becomes more intense than any mere pain could ever be.  Indeed, such painful discipline brings into the lives of the disciple the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it. This memorial then summons us to strengthen our drooping hands and our weak knees.  We must make straight paths for our feet, that what is lame may not be dislocated but healed.  If we strive for peace with everyone, we may not find it.  However we will find that holiness without which no one will see the LORD.  Among the disciples of the LORD we must be sure that no one is deprived of the grace of God and that no bitter-root spring up among us to divide and destroy the community.  Such a counter-witness will only defile the community.  Our fellow witness even now intercedes for our growth in holiness and openness to martyrdom.

 The Evangelist, Saint Mark, does not hesitate to inform the reader that the Lord Jesus was surrounded by misunderstanding and rejection.  The leaders of the People are watching him carefully, waiting for him to make a public miss statement that could be used to condemn him in court.  His family seems to fear that he is out of his mind.  Now, the folks of his own hometown add their voices to the chorus of rejection.  They resisted his teaching in the synagogue and tried to put him in his place.  They wanted to know: “Who does he think he is? We have known him from childhood! He’s not so special!”  They took offence at him.  They were particularly unhappy with his preaching when he challenged their faith and their interpretation of the Law.  This reaction is nothing new to Israel.  All throughout history the People of God have resisted the preaching of the prophets and have rejected them to their own demise.  The Lord Jesus is now numbered among the True Prophets who dared to speak for the LORD.  These men were the mouthpiece of God, and few wanted to hear what the LORD had to say when they had already made up their mind.  Just like the rebellious King David and the People of Israel, those who came from his native place and among his own kin did not accept the Father’s will.  The only Messiah they wanted was one who would use force to overthrow the power of Rome that dominated the world of the time.  However, the Lord Jesus came to heal, using his power to heal not to lead armies.  Such a lack of faith in the message of the prophets and in the teaching of The Lord Jesus amazed him so much that he was not able to perform any mighty deeds, except for curing a few sick people by laying hands on them.  This lack of faith was not unlike the lack of faith we read about throughout the Bible.  Is it not like our own lack of faith?  Do we really expect the Lord Jesus to work mighty deeds here among us at this liturgy?  Perhaps we take offense at such a question.  Perhaps because it touches a truth we would rather not face.