July 11, 2021 - Pastor Message10/20/2021
“Jesus said to all, ‘Whoever wishes to be my disciple must deny himself, take up his cross each day, and follow me. Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it’” (Luke 9:23-24)
“Jesus came forward and addressed his disciples in these words, ‘Full authority has been given to me both in heaven and on earth; 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,’” (Matthew 28:18-19).
Christianity is a missionary religion and has been since Christ established the Church 2000 years, giving his disciples the great commission to bring all people to faith in him. That is what his disciples have been doing ever since, shining the light of the gospel in every place and culture and winning souls for Christ.
There is a movement in the Western world today, however, attempting to demonize missionary work. This movement is based on the false premise that Christianity is hopelessly entangled in European colonialism of the 15th 20th centuries and is essentially nothing more than a tool used by European powers to subdue native populations against their will, destroying their rich, noble, native cultures. This movement has led to campaigns, both organized and by mobs, to erase any Christian or European influence from the public forum, particularly as it relates to missionary work and colonization. We see this, for example, in places that have changed Columbus Day to Indiginous People’s Day or when mobs have vandalized or destroyed statues of historic figures like the great missionary Junipero Serra or even images of Jesus and Mary because they are depicted as being white.
This movement is flawed for many reasons, but one of those is the false belief that native peoples did not convert to Christianity willingly but were forced to convert. We need look no further than the example of the saint whose feast day is this Wednesday, July 14th, to see that this belief is simply not true. I am referring to St. Kateri Tekwitha, a Native American woman who was born to a Christian Algonquin mother in 1656 and taken captive by the Iroquois, whose chief was fiercely anti-Christian. Her family was enslaved, but a peace treaty with the French led the chief to allow Christian missionaries into his community. These missionaries profoundly affected the young Kateri, who longed to be baptized but was not permitted by her master. Finally, her burning faith moved her to run away and trek 200 miles through the wilderness to a Christian village, where she took on a life of prayer, penance, and celibacy until her death as a baptized Christian in 1680.
Kateri is just one example of the millions of native people who have willingly and gladly converted to Christianity over the centuries through the tireless, often dangerous work of holy missionaries. Even in the face of opposition and hardships, Kateri persevered in her desire to be with Jesus. May her witness inspire us to a deeper love of Christ as well and a greater commitment, even in the face of contemporary opposition, to witness the gospel to all nations today.
Fr. Marc Stockton