Memorial of Saint Boniface, bishop and martyr
(Tobit 1:3.2:1a-8; Mark 12:1-12)
St. Boniface was born in England and raised there in a Benedictine monastery. He was a successful teacher but desired to be a missionary among the pagans in what is now Germany. When he arrived, he achieved notoriety by chopping down an old oak tree worshipped by the people without incurring harm. He labored successfully throughout the land. After a distinguished career in which he was named “Primate of Germany,” Boniface retired to where he began his mission. There he and a group of followers were martyred by a band of pagans.
Missionaries leave their native place for many reasons. But they need to have love of both Christ and the people to whom they preach if they are to succeed. Their purpose is not to change the culture which they find in the land of their destination but to deepen it. They will demonstrate how the best part of any culture resonates with the teachings of Christ. Sometimes people will resent the connections that are being made. This is what happened to St. Boniface and cost him his life. The gospel today relates how Christ was a missionary whose life was taken out of resentment for what he said.
Christian missionaries serve humanity as well as the Church. At their best, they bring the message of God’s love for the world and His mandate that we love one another. They also crossbreed cultures leaving behind the best of their culture and often taking the new culture home before they die. Today we sing their praises.