Saturday, December 3, 2011

December 3 - Francis de Xavier, Jesuit, Missionary, Work in Progress

"It's my right, Francis, to live as I please," said the noble man, "and I don't see why any savage heathen should have any right to say anything about it." Francis gawked at the man as arguments fought each other in his mind to see which one Francis would unleash upon the western noble. In India, it seemed that Francis spent most of his time battling the negative images of Christianity that the Europeans carried with them like their luggage and valuables. It was so easy for the poor of India to reject what Francis had to say because they had seen many men and women with the same attitude as the man who now stood before Francis looking pleased with himself and disgusted by the poverty around him.

"But you don't get it, friend," started Francis, "God loves these people, too, even if they aren't like us." Sure, it wasn't the best argument but it had taken some time for even Francis to arrive at it. He had been sent by his friend Ignatius of Loyola to be a missionary to the people of India.He had been called out of his worldly ambitions to serve the Church and seek a
higher calling of love and mission work. When he arrived, he knew nothing of the Hindu, Buddhist, or Muslim religion and refused to have any conversation on the philosophy or thought of these religions. As his exposure to the people increased, however, he became enamored doesn't have the right to do as he or she pleases--we've given up that right." The man walked with the poor and needy left to suffer and die in the streets because of an accident of birth. "God is calling us to care for these people,"continued Francis. The man walked away--offended--and left Francis to wonder if there was any hope for salvation for foreign peoples if it seemed there was so little hope among his kindred.

Francis was criticized for caring for
the poor instead of appealing to the noble-born and influential. It was argued that he could reach more by first reaching the far-reaching segments of society.Yet, Francis centered himself among the poor, needy, and untouchable portions of society because of his own increasing awareness of the calling upon his life to live as a servant of God's people. It had been a long time since he had been with Ignatius but he had learned well the power of prayer and active love for making a way for redemption in the hearts of men and women. Eventually, he moved on and traveled to Japan as a missionary. This time, he learned from his mistakes--he truly was a work in progress--and addressed the cultural and spiritual predispositionsof the Japanese people from the beginning. He quickly set to work spreading the Gospel among the Japanese people and caring for those that the society wished would simply disappear. Eventually, he had a small group of converts who would meet regularly and were reaching out to those around them. Having established a foothold, he wrote letters and appealed for more missionaries. For many years, the Jesuits were able to send many missionaries to Japan because Francis had prepared a foothold and a community to welcome them.

But, it is true that Francis was a work in progress. He was instrumental in beginning the Goa inquisition and
leading to the torture and death of many people in Southeast Asia. For this, Francis is not celebrated but mourned. He failed to see the consequences of his actions and the inherent evil in what he was doing. Francis' sin was one that so many of us have made: a willingness to crush and harm another to make myself feel better. From this sin, Francis and we must repent.

Near the end of his life he set out for China because of a growing passion for the people of that nation and indubitably looked forward to meeting the people and sharing the good news with them. On his way, he fell very sick and had to be dropped off before reaching the mainland.Throughout his life, he had subsisted on very little food so that he could feed more of the hungry and got by with little medical attention so that he could aid the poor. Finally, his years of devotion to the suffering had brought him into the place of the sick and the needy. He died on an island off the coast of China and did so by himself. He had gone on to prepare another place for missionaries to go and had died in his service to the Lord who calls all followers to take up their cross and follow him.

No comments: