Memorial of Gonsalo Garcia – Matthew 10:17-22
My dear friend, the late Fr Larry Pereira, always said that Christianity is not for ‘namby-pambies’. The word has more than just a nice ring to it for it conveys a truth. It is dangerous when we propagate personal devotions to Christ over the tougher message of the Gospel.
Let me give you an example and please don’t get me wrong, I have no disrespect for the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus or any other devotion. I grew up with this devotion and still have devotion but this devotion has always been portrayed as ‘sweet’, ‘merciful’ and for ‘namby-pambies’. I have yet to hear, on the feast day, a homily that challenges us to follow the Lord’s heart of justice, suffering in mission or one that confronts evil. Somehow the devotion has always been presented as ‘sweet’.
If we are truly to follow the heart and mind of Jesus then the road is narrow and less trodden. The Gospel of today is a fine example of what a Christian is called to. Perhaps in some parts of the world or country, we don’t experience what is described in today’s Gospel; the flogging, hatred, being put to death and the terror of having to flee your home. But that means one of the two things; either we don’t live in that part of the world where this happens or we don’t go out in mission in our part of the ‘safe’ world.
The apostles did not even need a choice. They were burning with passion for the Lord. Not only had they been given great authority they were also given the consequences of that authority and none of those consequences were ‘pretty’.
St. Gonsalo Garcia whose feast we celebrate today, was a perfect reflection of today’s Gospel. Born around 1556 in the fortified city of Bassein in the Portuguese quarter of India. His father was Portuguese soldier and his mother was a native. Gonsalo Garcia was tutored by the Jesuits at Bassein Fort. He wanted to become a missionary, but was turned down because he was too young. At the age of 15 he accompanied a Jesuit priest to Japan. Having learnt Japanese on the voyage, he turned out to be a popular catechist among the younger locals.
He worked for eight years in the Japanese missionary fields with the Jesuits. He tried to join the Jesuit order, but he was turned down because of his native origin. Having lost hope, he moved to Alcao as a merchant. Through his business transaction he came into contact with many high-ranking members of Japanese society, including the emperor.
His dream unfulfilled, he moved to the Philippines and worked with the Franciscans as a lay brother. A few years later, he was accepted by them as a Friar Minor. He was sent back to Japan as translator for a diplomatic delegation, and continued teaching Catechism there.
The success of the Franciscans angered the Buddhist priests. They tried to get the king to expel the Franciscans, but he refused. However, that was about to change. A Spanish treasure ship named the San Felipe was forced to land because of a storm. The captain erroneously told the local Japanese custom agent that the Franciscans had been sent by the Spanish king to influence the people to rebel against their ruler. This lie was taken advantage of by the enemies of the Franciscans.
When Taikosama heard the story, he was enraged and ordered that all missionaries in Japan be arrested and executed. The Franciscans were arrested on December 8, 1596 and sentenced to death. The following February, 26 Christians were taken to a hill outside of Nagasaki and crucified.
Gonsalo was the first to be crucified. Once the missionaries were nailed to the crosses, the soldiers pierced each one through the heart with a spear. Upon seeing this, Christians in the crowd broke through the guards and used pieces of cloth to soak up the blood of these holy martyrs.
An example of missionary sacrifice, he was the first Indian to be declared a saint and was canonized on June 8, 1862 by Pope Pius IX. He is the Principal Patron of the Diocese of Vasai, and Second Patron of the Archdiocese of Bombay.
The Church today seems to have a certain disconnect because we are perhaps more inclined to rituals and devotions. In order to be on fire with the word of God, to be connected to His message and to reject a ‘namby-pamby’ style of Christianity, requires us to be reconnected to His Word in the Sacred Scriptures.
We glibly pass on fake news via social media without verifying the truth behind it but are afraid to spread the truth about His Word. Perhaps that is our mission today. Pass on the Good News, stop spreading the fake new.
Fr Warner D’Souza
Written with malice to none
References from the JBC
References about St Gonsalo taken from the Website of the Archdiocese of Chicago and Bombay)