Monday, October 19, 2009

Tough Love - Isaac Jogues and Company

This morning in chapel, I got zapped by one of the prayers we heard. Jesus “put himself into our hands.” Incredible… Talk about becoming vulnerable, dependent, helpless. Didn’t he know the risks involved? Unrequited love, betrayal, indifference, even a scalding hatred that would end in tearing his very flesh from him and hanging him on a cross? Yes, he knew the risks, but he did it anyway. Jesus “put himself into our hands.” Isaac Jogues, John de Brébeuf and Companions Today, we celebrate a group of men – missionaries – who also knew the risks. They came from across the sea with the burning conviction that God had broken into our world, took on a body like us and offered it freely to ransom us from hatred and violence and indifference. But some of the Huron and Iroquois men, men who felt their power and position, their very paradigm of life, challenged by the missionaries, grew violent themselves. They cut off Isaac’s fingers so he couldn’t offer the Mass, they would cut out a man’s tongue so he couldn’t speak a word of the gospel, burned and scalped and brutally beaten... But Isaac and his companions kept preaching with their very bodies, as they moved about the villages…. They said with their very bodies: Peace… Mercy… Love… Forgiveness, in a violent and bloodthirsty region. After much torture and an escape from his captors, St. Isaac actually returned to France, and was hailed as a hero. And then, guess what he did? He “put himself into their hands” again. He returned to North America, to that place of torture, to speak of his love of the God Who was tortured for us.
Two summers ago, I took my nephew Sean on a whirlwind tour of New England, a real vision quest, as a gift for his confirmation. Our first stop… the North American Martyrs Shrine in New York state. There we learned of one of St. Isaac's little practices of evangelization.... carving the Holy Name of Jesus into trees around the little Mohawk village he ministered to. Today the shrine simply tacks on the wooden letters, and they're everywhere! St. Isaac, like a lover, carving his Beloved's name into an old oak. At the southern tip of the Adirondak Mountains, Isaac was brutally killed by the Iroquois League, witnessing to Christ. We stood on that holy ground where these men made their sacrifice. Later, their love bore fruit in the birth of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, the Lily of the Mohawks... on that very spot. Was it worth the risk? Well, my nephew was moved, and he knows now that faith can make a man out of you. The root of virtue is vir…. Meaning manly, masculine. Sean knows a truth worth dying for, and that Christianity is not a religion for “wimps.” We are made for a tough love, one that is willing to lay down our life for our beloved. May we pray for and receive such courage and trust from the martyrs of North America. Their blood cries out from our own soil… Believe, Trust, Love… and Forgive.
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