Feast of Saints John de Brébeuf and Isaac Jogues
“He (Abraham) believed, hoping against hope.”
Today, the Church celebrates the feast day of the Saints John de Brébeuf and Isaac Jogues, Priests, and Companions, Martyrs. There were eight martyrs in all, six priests and two laymen. The first one to die was a layman who had joined the Jesuits in their missionary work in North America. He was martyred in 1642. The last martyr, Fr. Noel Chabanel, died in 1649.
St. Paul, in his letter to the Romans, reflects upon the quality of Abraham’s faith, when God promised him that he would be the Father of a great nation. Abraham and Sarah, his wife, were advanced in age. How could this be possible? Abraham believed that God would be faithful to His Promise and that God, indeed, would make him the Father of a great nation. It was this Faith that St. Paul praises in his letter to the Romans. This is the kind of Faith that all are called to have in the promises of God. We do not earn faith or grace, but we receive Faith and Grace as gift.
This is why there is a close relationship between Faith and Hope. Hope is such an important part of our Faith life. We see this as we reflect upon our own faith journey. At the beginning, we want everything to go well. If things go wrong, we begin to doubt that God is with us and we begin to complain to God, asking God to remove these troubles from our life. Some even think that God is displeased with us when we have bad things happen to us. It is difficult to walk by Faith when things are not going well. This is when we need to Hope against hope. Not only do we need to continue to believe that God is there for us, but we also need to Hope that the troubles we have will not delay God’s promise. When we lose Faith and when we lose Hope, we lose our way, we give in to temptations that surround us and we make bad decisions that lead us to hopelessness. Even then, God will be faithful and call us back to where we belong.
Vaclav Haval, the Czech playwright, said: “Hope is faith folding out its hand in the dark.” This is what St. Paul was telling us that Abraham was doing when he believed in the Promise of God. This is what the Jesuit martyrs believed when they dedicated themselves to their mission in North America, evangelizing the Native American population. It was their Hope to bring the Good News to a people who needed Good News. It was their Hope to be a witness to Gospel values and it was their Hope to bring the Love of God by the witness of their lives.
Let us remember all of those brave men and women who have gone before us in Faith, Hope and Love when we begin to lose our way, when we think that life or God is unfair, when everything seems hopeless. This is the time for us to hope against hope!
Fr. Clemente Barrón, C.P. is a member of Immaculate Conception Community in Chicago, Illinois.