6 February, Monday — Hearing God’s Voice  

6 Feb – Memorial for Sts. Paul Miki and Companions, martyrs (in Japan)

St. Paul Miki (1562-1597) was one of the Twenty-six Martyrs of Japan. He was born into a rich family and educated by Jesuits in Azuchi and Takatsuki. He joined the Society of Jesus and preached the gospel for his fellow citizens. The Japanese government feared Jesuit influences and persecuted them. He was jailed among others.

He and his Christian peers were forced to walk 600 miles from Kyoto while singing ‘Te Deum’ as a punishment for the community. Finally they arrived at Nagasaki, the city which had the most conversions to Christianity, and he was crucified on 5 February 1597. He preached his last sermon from the cross, and it is maintained that he forgave his executioners stating that he himself was Japanese. Alongside him died Joan Soan (de Goto) and Santiago Kisai, of the Society of Jesus, in addition to 23 clergy and laity, all of whom were canonized by Pope Pius IX in 1862.

On 15 August 1549, St. Francis Xavier, Father Cosme de Torres, SJ, and Father John Fernandez arrived in Kagoshima, Japan, from Spain with hopes of bringing Catholicism to Japan. On Sep 29, St. Francis Xavier visited Shimazu Takahisa, the daimyo of Kagoshima, asking for permission to build the first Catholic mission in Japan. The daimyo agreed in hopes of creating a trade relationship with Europe.

A promising beginning to those missions – perhaps as many as 300,000 Christians by the end of the 16th century – met complications from competition between the missionary groups, political difficulty between Spain and Portugal, and factions within the government of Japan. Christianity was suppressed. By 1630, Christianity was driven underground.

The first Martyrs of Japan are commemorated on Feb 5 when, on that date in 1597, 26 missionaries and converts were killed by crucifixion. 250 years later, when Christian missionaries returned to Japan, they found a community of Japanese Christians that had survived underground.

  • Wikipedia

Heb 11:32-40  
Mk 5:1-20

Let there be light.

Having watched the movie Silence by Martin Scorsese a few years ago, today’s memorial of Saint Paul Miki and Companions is particularly poignant to me. As those of us who have watched the movie will know, a great part of it focuses on the martyrdom of both priests and laity during the Tokugawa oppression of Catholics in early modern Japan.

I found the scenes of Father Sebastiao Rodrigues (played by Andrew Garfield) ministering the Sacraments to the villagers particularly touching. Whatever your views on the ending of the movie (and I shall certainly not reveal any spoilers here), there is no denying that the missionaries and the villagers who assisted them played important roles in bringing Christ to the people.

Indeed, today’s Gospel reading focuses on the people’s desire to see Jesus and to be healed by Him. We are told that those who touched the tassel on His cloak were healed. But nowhere does it say (within this particular passage) what Jesus actually did to heal these people. Indeed, it is very often emphasized that it is as much the faith of His followers as it was through His intervention that healing took place. We often hear Jesus telling the healed: “Go, your faith has saved you”.

It is therefore, at the end of the day, our faith that matters in our own physical and spiritual healing. In the movie, Father Rodrigues is tormented by the silence that his prayers fall upon. But we know, through our faith, that God is not silent. Far from it. We can hear Him in the birds and the morning breeze, in waterfalls and city traffic alike. Most importantly, He speaks to us through both scripture and our loved ones.

As today’s first reading makes clear: God has already spoken. And through His words, the world was created. And so as He has commanded — Let there be light. Let us therefore go forth in the confidence of His light and grace.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Jacob Woo)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for ears of faith, so that we can always hear Your voice in our everyday lives.

Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for the blessings and gifts that He has showered upon us, whether in good times or in bad. We also thank Him for the martyrs and saints, through whose courage we are inspired to follow God more closely.


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