Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Memorial of Saint Josaphat, bishop and martyr

(Wisdom 2:23-3:9; Luke 17:7-10)

Of all the evangelists St. Luke takes the prize for compassion.  His description of Jesus features this great virtue.  Only Luke quotes Jesus assuring Peter of his prayers when he predicts his denial.  Likewise, only Luke makes an excuse for his disciples sleeping while he is in agony in the garden.  He says that the disciples were “sleeping from grief.”  Only Luke will show Jesus healing the shorn ear of the servant.  So why does Jesus in today’s gospel imply that his disciples are not doing anything commendable when work overtime?

To understand Jesus’ intention one must note the context of the statement.  Jesus has just forbidden his disciples from giving scandal and mandating them to forgive.  When the disciples request more faith to carry out these commands, Jesus assures they already have enough faith.  Indeed, he says, even a little faith can move trees.  He implies that instead of needing added help, they must strengthen their resolve.

Today’s patron saint, Josaphat, exemplifies the kind of determination that Jesus has in mind here. He was a monk and later bishop of the Ruthenian (Eastern European) Catholic rite.  Through intensive apostolic effort, Josaphat was able to bring Orthodox Ruthenians into the Catholic fold.  He was martyred, however, by a mob of pro-Orthodox people resentful of his work.