Homily for the Memorial of Sts. John de Brebeuf, Isaac Joques, and Companions
If our lives were demanded of us today, would we be prepared to meet the Lord? Will we have stored up only things for ourselves here on earth or will we have stored up treasure in Heaven?
Scripture passages like this should really make us stop and think. Are we doing the right things? Are we living our lives as Jesus taught us to live? Are we taking our call to discipleship seriously? And, if we’re honest with ourselves, I think each of us would see that there is always something that we can work on. There is always area in our lives where we could do better. It’s good to sometimes simply pause and think about our priorities, whether we are focusing our energies on the right things. Yes, it’s important to focus time and energy on our responsibilities with our jobs, our families, etc. BUT we should also be making sure that we give our relationship with the Lord the time and energy that it deserves. Because one day our lives will be demanded of us and when we get to the other side of Heaven, we want to make sure that the Lord says to us, “Well done, my good and faithful servant” rather than “I do not know you.” That’s what this is all about.
I think our saints for the day are perfect examples of individuals who understood this call of the Lord to store up for ourselves treasure in heaven. They understood that a life of luxury was not what was most important; instead, what was important was making the name of the Lord known throughout the world.
Sts. John de Brébeuf and Isaac Joques and their companions were members of the Jesuit order who were sent to New France to evangelize and convert the Native American tribes in that region, a task that seemed impossible at the outset. In fact, the first time Isaac Joques was sent to New France, he was captured by the Iroquois and tortured. Most of the fingers on his right hand were cut off so that he was unable to celebrate Mass. When he was released, he was sent back to France. He was unable to celebrate Mass until he received a dispensation from the Vatican to do so with a mutilated hand. He would then return to New France to continue his work of evangelizing the Iroquois. He would later be killed by them for working to establish peace between the warring tribes and the French settlers.
John de Brébeuf was sent to Québec for a similar mission, to bring the Christian faith to the Iroquois. He first arrived in New France in 1626 and worked for the next 22 years to achieve that mission. In 1648, when the Iroquois attacked Huron, Fr. John and another fellow Jesuit were tied to crosses, “baptized” with boiling water and slashed with knives. Throughout the ordeal, John prayed for the courage to suffer without crying out for the sake of the warriors inflicting these sufferings. He knew that they valued courage and he did not want them to think that Christians were weak. In the end, the warriors were so impressed by John’s courage that when he died, they ate his heart so that they could obtain some of his bravery.
Now, not all of us are being called to go out and become missionaries and martyrs like John de Brébeuf, Isaac Joques and their companions. However, we are called to be disciples of Jesus in a way that is unique to us. If we are taking that discipleship seriously, it will be evident by the fruit that it bears. The martyrdom of John de Brébeuf and Isaac Joques resulted in many of the Iroquois becoming Catholic. Later, the man who killed Isaac Joques would ask to be baptized. A few years after the death of these men, in one of the Iroquois tribes, St. Kateri Tekakwitha was born.
What can we say about the fruit of our discipleship? If our lives were demanded of us today, what would the words of the Lord be to us? Would he say: “Well done, my good and faithful servant” or “I do not know you”? The answer to that question is up to us.