Saturday, 3 December 2022 : Feast of St. Francis Xavier, Priest and Patron of Missions (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the Church marks the occasion of the Feast of St. Francis Xavier, the Patron of Missions and a member of the Society of Jesus or the Jesuits renowned for his lengthy and great missionary journeys to different parts of the world, especially his works in Asia, in the regions of India and South Asia, then Southeast Asia and the Far East, in Macau, China and Japan. St. Francis Xavier gave inspiration to many others in how he dedicated his life and service to God, in his perseverance to continue the mission despite the challenges and hardships he encountered during his journeys, and his passion and love for his fellow brothers and sisters, in the genuine desire he has to proclaim the Word of God and His Good News to more and more of the people of God all around the world.

St. Francis Xavier was born in what is today Spain as Francisco de Jasso y Azpilicueta in the town of Javier or Xavier which would later on made him known as Francis Xavier as we know him today. He was one of the companions of the Founder of the Society of Jesus, St. Ignatius of Loyola and one of the first members of the Jesuits, considered as one of its founding members. Back then, during the height of the Protestant reformation, St. Ignatius of Loyola gathered his companions and other like-minded people to commit themselves to the works of evangelisation and other ministries to spearhead the efforts in countering the terrible effects of the so-called reformation, which splintered the Church in many places into several factions and ‘churches’, and heresies and falsehoods were abound because of errant heretics and preachers.

The Jesuits were founded with the aim to help the Pope and the Church to oppose the tide of heresy and disunity, as well as to reform the Church in the right way. St. Ignatius of Loyola sent out the Jesuits in ministering both to the traditional areas of Christendom like in what is today Germany, the hotbed of the reformation, and also to those mission areas beyond Europe, where European explorers and adventurers made many discoveries of distant lands, all of which had not yet heard the message of God’s truth, His Gospels and the Good News of His salvation. St. Francis Xavier was among those entrusted with the responsibility to proclaim the Good News in the foreign and distant lands, and hence, he went forth, never returning to his homeland ever again.

He followed the long journey to the newly discovered areas, embarking on an extensive missionary journeys in parts of India, where missionaries had already laid some foundations earlier on, as well as areas of Southeast Asia like Malacca and the Spice Islands where he went to several islands and communities, preaching about God and gaining some people who were interested to know more about the Lord and became the first Christian converts in those areas. He did not always have it smooth though, as he did face rejection and hardships along the way, and in a well-known story about him, St. Francis Xavier almost met his end in a terrible storm in the sea, where the boat he was in was battered by waves and the strong wind. He prayed to God and thrust his crucifix into the waves, which then fell into the water and the storm stopped miraculously. A crab later on brought the crucifix back to St. Francis Xavier, who blessed it, and that crab later on always had a cross on its back.

That is just one of the many well-known stories regarding St. Francis Xavier, in his many efforts to serve the Lord through his time and work, in proclaiming the Good News to the furthest ends of the world. He went on to proclaim the Gospels in Japan, and was instrumental in laying the foundations for the later very successful Jesuit mission in Japan, which despite its termination later by the very intense persecutions under the Tokugawa Shogunate, for a period of about fifty years, the Church managed to flourish really well in Japan, with an estimated three hundred thousand Christians during the very height of the mission there, several decades after the passing of St. Francis Xavier. St. Francis Xavier himself passed away in Shangchuan Island just on the shores of China as he awaited the opportunity to enter China to begin a mission there. Some of other Jesuits like the famous Matteo Ricci would then continue what St. Francis Xavier had started.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we reflect on the lives and works of St. Francis Xavier today, on his Feast day, all of us are called to reflect on our own respective calling and missions as Christians. Each one of us as God’s followers and disciples share the responsibility as the members of the same One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church to proclaim the message of God’s truth, His Good News and the Gospels of salvation to all the people whom we encounter in this world. St. Francis Xavier being the Patron of Missions and all missionaries serves as a reminder for all of us that we too share in this same mission and we must not have the misconception and misunderstanding thinking that the responsibility for mission and proclaiming the Gospel of Christ are solely that of missionaries and those ordained ministers alone.

On the contrary, every members of the Church including and even especially the laity have important parts to play in the works and ministries of the Church. If each members of the Church do not do their parts in the mission and works of the Church, or worse still, do things that are contrary to the teachings of the Church and bring scandal upon our faith, then it does not help the works of the Church’s missions in this world and can even jeopardise all the good efforts that had been put in place by the tireless efforts and hard works of all those who have committed themselves to the glory of God. Hence, that is why it is crucial that each and every one of us as Christians have to be genuine and true in our way of life that we have to practice our faith and show it through our every words, actions and deeds, in our every interactions with one another.

Let us all therefore commit ourselves to be a missionary Church, a vibrant and evangelising community of the Lord’s disciples, filled with the love for the Lord and with the passion to serve Him and to follow Him all the days and moments of our lives. Let us all follow the examples and inspiration from the passion and the commitment which St. Francis Xavier had dedicated his life to the service of God and to the proclamation of the Good News, the Gospel of salvation. Let us be exemplary in our way of life so that all those who witness our actions and works may indeed be convinced of God’s truth and His Good News that we and many other missionaries of the Church had proclaimed. If we ourselves have not lived in the way that the Lord had told and taught us to do, how can we then convince others to do the same?

May the Lord our most loving God continue to help and guide us in our journey of faith through life, so that we may always remain firm in our conviction and dedication, walking ever firmly in the path that He has set before all of us. May God be with us always and may He empower each and every one of us to be shining beacons of His light and truth, much as how St. Francis Xavier and the many other, innumerable saints had shown us their faith and light of God’s truth. May God bless our every works and efforts, and help us to persevere ever more faithfully in all the things we do for the greater glory of His Name. May He bless our Advent journey that we will always continue to grow ever stronger in our love for Him, and be prepared and ready to rejoice with Him this upcoming Christmas season. Amen.

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