06 February 2007

CHURCH-IN-MISSION

Memorial of Sts. Paul Miki and Companions, Martyrs
Mt 28:16-20

Today we celebrate the blessed memory of our fellow Asians: Sts. Paul Miki and Companions. This group of Asian martyrs, caught in the crossfire of the high politics that dominated Japan in the 1500’s, was composed of twenty-six Jesuit and Franciscan priests, brothers, and Christian laypersons. They were simultaneously raised on crosses and then stabbed with spears in the Nagasaki hill, Japan, in 1597. Their executioners were dumbfounded seeing their joy while they shed their blood for the Faith. Their joy came from knowing that they were associated with the Passion of the Lord. Their blood watered the seeds of Faith in this part of the world and eventually they became the first martyrs of East Asia to be canonized.

It is highly significant to note that these twenty-six martyrs were mostly, if not all, converts themselves. They were the fruits of the labor of the missionaries who first set foot in Japan and preached the Gospel. Indeed, they were the crowning glory of the Church’s mission.

The Gospel today reminds as that the Church is essentially missionary. At the very inception of the Church – at its very beginning – it has always been being sent forth. Ecclesiology is a function of missiology. To be Church is to be Church-in-mission. To reach out is always the direction of the Church.

The Church cannot only be about devotion, most especially when devotion has unwittingly turned into obsession. Church is about mission. And that is not simply about feeding programs, medical and dental missions, street Masses, or even pilgrimages. The Gospel today explicitly indicates the mission of the Church with three verbs: go, baptize, and teach. Let us therefore not forget to go, to baptize, and to teach even as we feed the hungry, care for the sick, bring the sacraments to the masses, and make pilgrimages.

Martyrs are missionaries not only because they went, they baptized, and they taught the Gospel in foreign lands. They are missionaries by the shedding of their blood. Nothing can be more convincing than the love they have for the Lord, for the Church, for the Faith, and for their fellow men and women. It is that love that made them go, baptize, and teach unto the shedding of blood.

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