One of the founding tenets of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) is the willingness to go anywhere in the world that there is a call to serve God. A hallmark of this service is the willingness to share the life of the indigenous people, adopting their language and living habits re: food, dress, etc. Today is the feast of St. Francis Xavier, a contemporary of Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits in the 1500s. Francis was an academic in Paris who, at the age of 24 took to heart the question of Jesus: What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his [spiritual] life? (MT 16:26) It was Ignatius who asked Francis this question which appears for us in today’s lectionary readings. It took awhile, but Francis eventually joined Ignatius in his new community and after ordination as a priest in 1537 went as a missionary, sailing first to Lisbon and then to the west coast of India serving the poor as one of them wherever he went. He ministered especially to the sick, particularly to lepers, and while he often had no time for sleep or for prayer, his letters testify to the joy that always filled his life. He moved on to Malaysia and Japan, learning Japanese and establishing missions for those who would follow him. Although he dreamed of going to China, he became ill and eventually died on the island of Sancian, a hundred miles southwest of Hong Cong. In 1925 the Catholic Church declared him, with St. Therese of Lisieux, co-patron of the missions.
Commentary from americancatholic.org on this feast says the following: All of us are called to “go and preach to all nations” (see MT 28:19). Our preaching is not necessarily on distant shores but to our families, our children, our husband or wife, our coworkers. And we are called to preach not with our words but with our everyday lives. Only by sacrifice, the giving up of all selfish gain, could Francis Xavier be free to bear the good news to the world. Sacrifice is leaving yourself behind at times for a greater good, the good of prayer, the good of helping someone in need, the good of just listening to another. The greatest gift we have is our time. Francis gave this to others.
Who is waiting for your listening ear today? Who is waiting for mine?