This afternoon I attended a Mass of Thanksgiving with the Filipino Community for today’s canonization of Saint Pedro Calungsod a martyr in the 1600’s along with him the United States got two new saints one of whom was a martyr as well, Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, the first native American saint. And though I am sure that the Vatican planned the Canonization Ceremony with the readings in mind, I still found it amazing just how these two martyrs reflect the spirit of today’s readings and just how hard it is for most of us to follow in their footsteps.
Today’s Mass readings bring an edge of uneasiness to those who hear them. In our busy day-to-day struggles we are conditioned to meet and overcome the obstacles in our way. We go forward to meet situations, handle them and then move on; or retreat and go another way. And though there are many around us, sometimes moving with us – our path still seems to us to be a solitary one. There is a comfort in this method – we don’t have to rely on anyone but ourselves – we find our own path. But Holy Mother Church urges us to trust in God and that He will provide.
So to hear the words of Isaiah the prophet “The Lord was pleased to crush him in infirmity.” We are left with concern – if God does that to His beloved Son what of us?
And to hear Christ tell those around Him: “For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” We feel nervous that, for God, the path for our salvation leads through such pain and suffering.
Then to hear Christ tell us that: “The cup that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized;” meaning that we too shall follow His path – is downright frightening. (James and John didn’t have the knowledge that we do.)
So how do we convince ourselves that this is the path we must be walk? That we want to go through this gauntlet? Indeed St Paul called this message of the cross: “a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles…” So how do we move forward on this path; when our whole life has been one of seemingly individual challenges.
Precisely because the witness of Christ’s love for us tells us so; through His words and actions our Lord urges us not so much to follow him but to walk with Him; He is there beside us. His loving help for us, His grace given is all we need. We are always strengthened as we journey – we know how this will end – and maybe most importantly, our companion has gone through exactly what we experience – He knows and understands – we are never alone; or as is so beautifully put in today’s second reading from the Letter to the Hebrews:
Since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens,
Jesus, the Son of God,
let us hold fast to our confession.
For we do not have a high priest
who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses,
but one who has similarly been tested in every way,
yet without sin.
So let us confidently approach the throne of grace
to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.
These words are what these two saints Pedro and Kateri witnessed to, to the point of their lives; it is what all the saints have successfully attained and it is what, I pray, each of us find.
Saints Pedro and Kateri pray for us.