December 3 is the Feast of St. Francis Xavier, who is the patron of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood.
By Fr. Matthew Keller, C.PP.S.
St. Francis Xavier is the patron saint of our Community, and for other missionary religious communities as well. An image that comes to mind about many missionaries is that they go out to preach the Gospel, particularly to those places that need to hear the Gospel. When I think about preaching the Gospel, I picture a minster standing at a pulpit in church or a place of worship, or standing on the street corner sharing a fire-and-brimstone message, or I think of men dressed in shirts and ties going door-to-door. This is preaching but not the only way to preach.
Another St. Francis is attributed with the saying, “Preach the gospel always, when necessary use words.” Meaning that preaching is not so much about the words we speak but based upon the actions of our lives. While these words may be attributed another St. Francis, this thought would most certainly have played a role in St. Francis Xavier’s missionary work. In his early missionary work he cared for the sick then in his later missionary work he went to India and Japan, preaching the word of God, often becoming a part of the local culture that he traveled to. In doing this, Francis Xavier brought the light of the Gospel to many people.
There is much joy and many rewards that come with preaching the Gospel, particularly when we say the right words that someone needed to hear. Preaching the Gospel is something that we want to do. But at times, preaching the Gospel can be challenging, particularly when the Gospel calls for us to say or do what we would rather not but is necessary. A simple example of this would be wearing a facemask during this time of pandemic. To be honest, I really do not want to wear a mask. Breathing through a mask is not as easy and it fogs up my glasses. But scientists and medical professionals tell us that it is necessary to wear masks to help reduce the spread of the virus. They tell us that facemasks help to protect those with vulnerable health. In a strange way, during the last few months the wearing of facemasks has become a symbol of love.
In our Scriptures today, Paul writes about this gift to preach. He speaks to this idea that sometimes the message that needs to be preached is a message that he does not want to share. But he preaches it anyway because he has been entrusted with a gift, a stewardship that needs to be shared. As preachers of the Word may we never shy away from the message that needs to be shared. Both by the words we speak and in the actions of our lives.
Fr. Matt Keller, C.PP.S., is the parochial vicar of the Downtown Dayton Catholic Parishes, which includes Emmanuel, Holy Trinity and St. Joseph.