Friday, October 19, 2007

Friday word, 19 Oct 2007

North American Martyrs, Memorial (19 Oct 2007) Rm 4. 1-11; Ps 32; Mt 16. 21,-24-28
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

Shape of Our Efforts

St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans extolled Jesus because Jesus reveals God’s mercy, patience and desire to save, namely welcoming people and acting mercifully. Jesus invites us to join him in his saving mission. When Pope John Paul II visited the North American Martyrs shrine in Midland, Ontario,/1/ he likened these apostles to the Hurons to the Apostle Paul because they, too, “gave up their lives for the sake of the Gospel.”/2/

From France to New France, as eastern Canada was called, Jean de Brébeuf, Isaac Jogues, Gabriel Lalemant, Antoine Daniel, Charles Garnier and Noël Chabanel, on fire with the loving zeal, came to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. With those priests came two lay brothers, René Goupil and Jean de la Lande. They were as courageous as the priests and showed great compassion and care for the natives. The North American Martyrs modeled Ignatian collaboration, which we seek anew.

A blessedness was theirs because they believed God. Their belief was not merely intellectual exercise. Their belief was deeply felt, it was a relationship with God, like that of Abraham, our first ancestor in faith. The relationship with God the North American Martyrs had was visible in their action on behalf of the gospel, their testimony in deed as well as word to our Messiah Jesus.

Abraham could not appeal to satisfying the law of Moses because it did not yet exist. St. Paul’s phrases, his works, and Abraham’s reason to boast, point meant that Abraham might have boasted in himself, something he did not do; likewise, the North American Martyrs. Their accomplishments, including giving their lives for the gospel, were not their works solely. We might say their energy was graced. Faith gives works a specific shape, martyrdom, in the sense that even our slightest effort can witness to God’s mercy, patience and desire to save.

/1/ 15 September 1984. See his homily for the occasion given at Midland, Ontario.
/2/ Ibid.
Wiki-image of the garden at St. Marie shrine is in the public domain.

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