"Abraham did not doubt God’s promise in unbelief; rather, he was empowered by faith and gave glory to God and was fully convinced that what God had promised he was also able to do." Romans 4:20
Today, we celebrate the North American Jesuit Martyrs that included two laymen. These brave missionaries ministered in a territory that was later to be known as Canada and the United States. Their desire to evangelize the indigenous peoples of this "new world" and to establish the Church in this "new land" serves as a great example to us today. It also serves to inspire us to develop a bold faith, a faith that expresses itself in doing God’s work without counting the cost or looking for successful outcomes. St. Paul says in the opening line of the first reading for today’s Mass: "Abraham did not doubt God’s promise in unbelief; rather, he was empowered by faith and gave glory to God." Abraham and these Jesuit martyrs have much in common. As you may know, the Jesuit motto is: "For the greater Glory of God."
Faith is much more than the belief that God will work miracles for us when we are beset with personal sufferings and afflictions. This kind of faith will have us rushing to God when we become critically ill or when someone we love is experiencing a great personal loss. We will call upon family and friends to pray with us for a miracle and we will even turn to strangers to help us plead our cause before God. And if by God’s Providence, a "healing" of some kind takes place, we may be quick to say that it was our faith that was responsible for this turn of events.
There is no doubt that our faith calls us to turn to God when there is great need in our life. However, I am not so sure if this is the kind of faith that St. Paul was referring to in this first reading for today’s Mass, or the kind of faith that Abraham had in God’s promise or the kind of faith Jesus was asking of us when he said, "Have faith in God and have faith in me." (John 14:1) Jesus was demanding his disciples and the people who followed him to have faith in the God who sent Jesus into this world to save it and redeem it. Jesus is asking us to have faith in God’s Plan of Salvation, which included the Way of the Cross and the Crucifixion before Resurrection and Pentecost.
This kind of faith calls us to believe in a God of Life when all we see is death and destruction. It also calls us to believe in a God of Love when we are surrounded by hatred and loathing. It is the faith of the saints who walked in darkness and doubt when they prayed hours on end, like St. Paul of the Cross and Teresa of Calcutta. It is the faith of martyrs when their life ends violently after preaching a Gospel of love and forgiveness, like Sts. John de Brébeuf, Isaac Jogues and their companions, the martyrs we celebrate today. It is a belief in a God who is more powerful and life-giving and loving than any expression of evil that we may encounter in our lives. God is able to bring light from darkness, life from death, and love from hatred. This, indeed, calls for some kind of faith!
Fr. Clemente Barron, C.P. is a member of the General Council of the Passionist Congregation and is stationed in Rome.