Isaiah 6: 1-8
Matthew 13: 24-30
Today the Church celebrates the feast of two great figures of the evangelization of the New World. One of these is Francis Solano, O.F.M. (1549-1610). Born in Cordoba, Spain to upper-middle class parents, he entered the Franciscans of the Reform at the age of 20. Ordained only a few years later, he rapidly rose in his religious family to be novice master and a very popular Lenten preacher. He was personally selected by King Philip II to lead missionary activity in Peru, Argentina and Paraguay. While crossing the Atlantic, a storm broke up his ship close to the Latin American shore. While the captain and all of the Spanish passengers and crew fled in a single lifeboat, Francis remained amidst the wreckage, baptizing the African slaves. Several perished in the turgid waters, but most clung to safety due to the survival plan of the Franciscan Friar. During his missionary career, Francis was both liked and disliked because he was given to confrontational eloquence. No one, however, doubted his radical love of God, his transparency and his warm charity. The Cause of his Canonization began almost immediately upon his death. He was memorialized frequently by Pope John Paul II during his multiple trips to Latin America. The Pontiff called him a prophet and wonder worker.
Blessed Kateri Tekawitha (1656-1680) is another symbol of evangelization in the New World. Born in New York, she was instructed and baptized by a Jesuit missionary. As a Catholic, her personal spiritual life was patterned on devotion to the Passion of Jesus. Her tender and compassionate care of the sick convinced countless numbers of her countrymen of the veracity of her religion and her holiness. The French missionaries recorded her mystical prayer as being among the most profound of the 17th Century. Today her body rests near Montreal. Both Canada and the United States claim her as a patron. Beatified in the presence of President and Mrs. Carter in 1980, she will be canonized on October 21st by Pope Benedict XVI.
Today’s biblical readings coincide with the feasts of Blessed Kateri and Saint Francis Solano. The Old Testament narrative records the vision of the prophet Isaiah which is nothing less than a glimpse of God himself in the Temple at Jerusalem. The train of God’s robe fills all the courts and porches of the structure. Seraphim hover in obeisance on either side of the throne, covering their faces and their feet while smoke rises to the sound of the glorious hymn: “Holy! Holy! Holy is the Lord God of hosts…” Isaiah the seer is immediately struck down into the posture of humility. He is overwhelmingly aware, through his sense of the presence of God, that he is a man of unclean lips, living among people of filthy mouths. Sins of the tongue are horrifying to God. Among these are blasphemy, cursing, lies, exaggeration, gossip, verbal pornography and silence when prayer and adoration are necessary. An angel purified the prophet’s lips with a burning coal from the Altar of Incense. Isaiah is at once bewildered, since sins of the tongue still render the rest of the world filthy and abhorrent to God. The biblical narrative recounts an incident of 3,000 years ago; yet the apostolic life of Francis Solano, which was one primarily of teaching and preaching, remains a pillar of the Catholic faith in the American Hemisphere. He possessed a fiery tongue to condemn the impure tongues and lying lips of the many. He was a man of courage, the like of which is needed today.
The Gospel narrative for today is taken from a rather lengthy instruction on the ministry of the Apostles as rendered by Saint Matthew. It consists largely of a collection of “Jesus’ Sayings” which Matthew frequently used in the structure of his Gospel. Tucked in among them is the image of a sparrow in the eyes of God. The sparrow was considered the cheapest, humblest and most useless of birds by Hebrew society. In fact, two of them are worth just a penny; yet God has his eye upon each and every one to shower it with tenderness. “Even the sparrow has a home…” (Psalm 84:3). Kateri Tekawitha lived and died like a sparrow, often without a permanent home. She was conscious of the fact that she lived under the protection of the grace of God. She not only received Baptism, she lived it. She became both missionary and contemplative. Her impending canonization is a reminder by Pope Benedict that each and every one is not only known by God, but is at home as the recipient of his personal tenderness.
- Father Jerome Vereb, C.P.