Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Memorial of Saint Paul Miki and companions, martyrs

(Hebrews 12:4-7.11-15; Mark 6:1-6)

There seems to be no bottom to the depths that humans can go in torturing others. Dr. Tom Dooley in the 1950s wrote of finding Vietnamese peasants with chop sticks hammered into their ears. Americans have recently used waterboarding which causes the victim to experience the sensation of drowning. At the end of the sixteenth century the Japanese shogun had St. Paul Miki’s and twenty-five others’ ears cut off. Then they were paraded through streets as a warning to their countrymen of the consequences of becoming a Christian. Finally, they were crucified with their abdomens and hearts pierced.

Although Christianity was forbidden in Japan, the faith did not die. The blood of Paul Miki and companion seemed to take root so that when Japan became open to the West in the nineteenth century, over two hundred thousand Christians were practicing the faith. The selection from the Letter to the Hebrews today reflects such a phenomenon. The author exhorts his readers not to give up the faith that their ancestors shed blood to maintain.

Although contemporary humans like to think of themselves as enlightened, an honest appraisal will note that torture and religious persecution are still prevalent. Unfortunately faith in Jesus’ message of peace and forbearance is waning. More than ever the world needs Christ, not just lip service paid to the gospel, but conversion of heart to his way.