October 19, 2016
Behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves." -Luke 10:3
In yesterday's reflection, Lauren offered some insight into the above verse. She made a particularly interesting point about lambs and their qualities. She said, "To be a true lamb is to be 1) guileless, 2) humble, and 3) under the authority of the Shepherd."
Lambs are inherently vulnerable; they're growing, not fully formed, dependent. They are only protected as far as their shepherd can keep them safe. If their shepherd is a child, they will follow the child where it is safe for a child to lead. If their shepherd is the God of angel armies, that territory expands a bit.
Today is the feast day of Saints Isaac Jogues, Jean de Brébeuf and Companions. I encourage you to read the article I linked to hear more about their amazing story. These men were French missionaries who spent decades of their lives preaching to and baptizing the Huron people in the Americas in the 17th century. Due to inter-tribal conflicts between the Hurons and the Iroquois and hostility toward Christians, they were the first martyrs on the North American content. They prayed, preached, and suffered for Christ's gospel.
These men were Christ's lambs in the truest sense: they were vulnerable, as witnessed by their repeated imprisonment, torture, and ultimate martyrdom, but more importantly they were bravely obedient. St. Isaac Jogues (seen pictured above) returned to France after having his hand mutilated, but (after receiving a dispensation to celebrate mass with maimed hands) he returned shortly after due to a divine sense of "unfinished business." Every one of these men courageously delved into some of the most adverse circumstances faced by Catholics ever on this continent; when I read their stories, the last thing I pictured was a harmless lamb.
Here we find one of the beautiful Christian paradoxes: vulnerability to God, complete surrender, bring about unlimited power (in the eternal sense, not the Dark Side sense). These martyrs were given beyond-human strength to offer a beyond-human witness. They did not fear death (see Erin's reflection about St. Ignatius of Antioch for another great example). They served faithfully and unflinchingly.
In a loosely related note to the election season, remember the heart of Christ at the heart of America. Truly. Not in some pandering patriotic way, but in a fundamental, unavoidable way. Fr. Don Miller, OFM reflects:
"Faith and heroism planted [the] belief in Christ’s cross deep in our land. The Church in North America sprang from the blood of martyrs, as has been true in so many places. The ministry and sacrifices of these saints challenge each of us, causing us to ask just how deep is our faith and how strong our desire to serve even in the face of death."
So I echo the question, how deep is your faith? How strong your desire to serve even in the face of death? Do we trust Christ's leadership in our lives to radically listen and bravely obey?
Praised be Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd.