North American Martyrs

Today we honour the memory of Saints Isaac Jogues, John de Brebeuf, four other Jesuit priests and two lay volunteers who were martyred in their efforts to announce the Good News to the native peoples in New York and Canada.   While it is fitting to recognise the sacrifice of those who gave their lives to establish the Christian faith in North America, it seems equally appropriate to ask forgiveness for the suffering and harm caused to the native peoples who were displaced from their lands by European settlers who took it by force.  Today we have a greater appreciation for the chequered history of the early years of the United States and Canada.  We can mourn lost cultures and languages that disappeared as native peoples were forcibly relocated and taught European ways.  As we remember the first North American martyrs, we thank God for the gift of faith planted in that continent, but we also ask forgiveness for the harm that accompanied that process.   Let us pledge ourselves to be aware of the consequences of our actions.

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Many people will think of the parable we’ve just heard in terms of the word final.  We picture the final hour when Our Lord will return to judge the world.  Once that final hour comes, we’ll have no more time to get ready; our time will be up.

Or we imagine him coming in our own final hour, when we will have to give him an account of our lives.  It’s rather sobering to realize that there will be a time when we will stand before the Lord, warts and all, when all our excuses will count for nothing.  How can we ever prepare for such a day?

The answer is that Our Lord himself prepares us by coming to us over and over again during the course of our lives.  We can all think of the many unexpected events that have happened to us.  In all of these situations, Our Lord is with us saying: “Here I am.  But are you ready for me?”

To prepare for Our Lord’s return means to welcome him into our hearts at every opportunity.  It means looking at every situation through the eyes of faith, trying our best to find God’s presence and his will.  It means assessing every circumstance in our lives according to his will, and according to the promises of the Gospel, so that we can face them with heavenly wisdom and godly strength.  In a nutshell, it means living with our eyes fixed on heaven and not just on this earth.

God wants to open our eyes today so that we can gain a heavenly perspective.  He wants to expand our vision so that we can see his hand in every situation that we encounter and so that we can surrender our lives to him more fully.  By doing so we can properly prepare for the Final Day when heaven comes to earth, and when we creatures of earth are lifted up to heaven.

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