A reflection from our Youth Minister, Mrs. Christina Valenzuela, OP
Last week, many parishioners attended a viewing of Martin Scorsese’s film adaptation of Shusaku Endo’s novel, “Silence,” a work of historical fiction about the very real persecution of 17 th-c Christians in Japan. At the heart of the story are two Jesuits—missionary priests from Portugal who struggle with questions of faith, doubt, suffering, and hope. The Japanese persecutors want them to abandon their mission, saying “we have our own religion; we don’t want a new, foreign one.”
In our own age, we are very conscious of the mistakes and evil deeds committed by some missionaries in the past. We are sensitive to the fact that true conversion comes about through love, not force. Yet we must be careful lest our compassion for those of other faiths turn into apathy, fear, or willful abandonment of our Christian mission. Jesus told his disciples, “GO therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20a) He commands this not because He wants us to impose our beliefs on others, but because the Triune GOD is real and wants to offer us the greatest gift of all: Himself. He is our Father, who created all of us out of pure love and wants us to learn to love Him in return. For whatever reason, GOD has chosen to take the slow and patient route: revealing Himself bit by bit first to Abraham, then Moses and Israel, then through His Son Jesus Christ, and now in the Holy Spirit, who guides the Church. He has decided that the best way to make Himself known, loved and served is for His beloved children to share the Good News (the Gospel) with one another. Knowing our human tendency to screw things up, we may question the wisdom of this decision—but Isaiah and St. Paul remind us: God’s ways are not our ways.
We may think that our life is completely different from that of a 17-th century missionary, but we can stop to ponder: when was the last time I had the opportunity to share my faith, but I backed down out of fear that my faith wasn’t wanted? Wasn’t valued? Would be judged? Do I know people who reject Christianity saying, “It’s OK for you to have your faith; but I don’t want it.” How can we invite these people to see that religion isn’t about personal opinions or cultural norms, but about the Truth of the cosmos? Either GOD exists, or He doesn’t. Jesus of Nazareth was either Christ, the Son of GOD, or he wasn’t. The Eucharist is either the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ… or it isn’t. These are the fundamental questions upon which our entire life will be shaped.
As Christians baptized into everlasting life with GOD, we can ponder these things in our hearts, drawing strength and grace from the Sacraments, to find in these Truths more than just a doctrinal statement. We must all become convinced that in these Truths lies the Greatest Love Story Ever Told, offered to each of us by the GOD who knows us and loves us and calls us by name. In the face of such an overwhelming abundance of love, who among even the weakest and least of us could remain silent?