The Feast today celebrates six Jesuit priests and two Lay Jesuits who gave their lives to proclaim the Gospel in New France. They died between 1642 to 1649. Jean de Brebeuf was a linguist, learning the Huron language which enabled him to preach in the native language and develop a relationship with the natives. He was later executed by the Iroquois when they attacked the Huron village where Jean lived. Jean’s courage during torture gained the admiration of his captors that they drank his blood and ate his heart in an attempt to absorb his courage. Isaac Jogues came to New France and was part of Jean de Brebeuf community. In Isaac’s case, his companions were captured by Mohawks and he went into their prison to comfort them. He was captured and also tortured. They tore out his fingernails and gnawed his fingers until the bones of his fingers were exposed. Some time later, his thumb was cut off. He was sent back to France and since priests at that time could only consecrate the host with their thumbs and forefingers, the Pope had to give him special dispensation from that law so he can celebrate the mass. He later returned to New France where he was captured and killed.
These Jesuits show the heroism of the society at that time. These gave up their lives to preach the true Gospel of Jesus Christ, willing to die for the Gospel, not afraid to displease men as long as they please God. They look forward to the beatific vision described in the First Reading where countless saints stand before the throne of the Lamb so they can worship him day and night. They know what the Psalm says those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy. They realize their bodies are what St Paul describes as clay vessels and the message they bring is the extraordinary power of God. They echo with their death what St Paul said in the Second Reading: we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus. When we give our lives to Christ, God is faithful and he will raise us up with him.
When we look at the news, we see churches being burned and desecrated, statues being destroyed, the Body and Blood of Jesus desecrated. These are signs that things will not be easy for Catholics. There is already a great wave of persecution coming and we need to be prepared, and pray that when we are confronted with these, we will be ready and willing to do what Jesus tells us: deny ourselves, take up our cross daily and follow him.
The commitment to die for Christ does not come in one magical moment. It is achieved by daily, dying to ourselves for the glory of Christ, so that when the time comes, it will be our natural reaction to surrender our lives to Christ, because we know we will be seeing him soon. No one knows how they will react when that moment comes. I do not know how I will react when that time comes. Pray that the death we will face will be a culmination of our life, because we will die as we live. If we live for Christ, we will die in Christ and we will see him as he is.
Lord God, take my life and strengthen me for the glory of your name. Lead me to take up my cross daily and to follow you. St Jean de Brebeuf, St Isaac Joques and companions, pray for me that I may have a generous heart to offer my life to the Lord.