Lorenzo Ruiz is the first Filipino to be declared a saint by the Catholic Church. He and his companions were killed for spreading Christianity in Japan. Lorenzo was a secretary at Our Lady of the Rosary church in Manila’s Chinatown and was forced to run away from the country because he was falsely accused of murdering a Spaniard at a time when Spain colonized the Philippines. His group landed in Japan and were later captured and tortured. As the pain got unbearable, Lorenzo thought of renouncing his faith to escape death. But on the night before he was to renounce his faith, he repented, confessed his sins and said: I am a Catholic and wholeheartedly accept death for God. If I have a thousand lives, I shall offer them to him. The story of Lorenzo Ruiz shows that there is salvation as long as we repent. It also shows that evil will never triumph over the power of God.
We see this in the First Reading where Satan had to ask God for permission to hurt Job. We often forget God’s power is infinitely greater than the power of the devil and all his evil spirits. No matter how bad things are, God has power to transform them for our good. It does not mean he will take the sufferings away, but God will use these to help us grow in holiness. Job understands this that when his sons and daughters died on the same day as all the other misfortunes happen (his oxen and donkeys were stolen and his servants killed, when fire from heaven destroyed his flock and servants, when his camels were carried off by raiders who also killed his servants), all he said was: Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. This total surrender to whatever happens shows his complete trust in the Lord. We also see in this story that suffering is not from God. God did not make all these happen.
The trust of Job contrasts the attitude of the disciples who were fighting as to who of them is the greatest and also who wanted to prevent someone who was not a part of their group from casting demons in the name of Jesus. Jesus shows them what it means to be part of the kingdom of God: to welcome this child in my name. What did Jesus mean by this? When parents realize they are pregnant, all their actions and plans are towards the coming of the child. The mother starts to eat healthier, taking vitamins to make sure the baby gets the right nutrients. They will arrange their house to welcome the child after he is born. And when the baby is born and has come home, everything revolves around the baby. This is what Jesus means to welcome this child in my name. We welcome Jesus as we will welcome a child. Our lives should revolve around Jesus. Our plans should revolve around his plans. Our day should revolve around worshiping him in personal prayer and mass.
When things do not make sense, we center our lives around Jesus. When we are suffering greatly, we center our lives around Jesus. When there seems to be no hope, we turn to Jesus.
This is how Lorenzo Ruiz and his companions were able to give their lives for Jesus, how Lorenzo Ruiz was willing to give a thousand of his lives for God should he have them: centering our lives in Christ.
Lord, take away the distractions in my life. Let me only live for your glory. Let my desire be to welcome you to my life, and allow you to transform it according to your will so you can be glorified. St Lorenzo Ruiz and companions, pray that I may learn how to have that courage to give my life to Jesus.