6th February. Thursday, Week Four
Saint Paul Miki and Companions, martyrs.
Paul Miki (1562-1597) was a Japanese Jesuit seminarian and preacher who won many converts to Catholicism. In the subsequent persecution under Hideyoshi, Miki was jailed, along with others, and was crucified in Nagasaki with two fellow-Jesuits and 23 other clergy and laity.
1st Reading: 1 Kings 2:1-4, 10-12
(Before dying David urges Solomon to be courageous and remain faithful to God in every way.)
When David’s time to die drew near, he charged his son Solomon, saying: “I am about to go the way of all the earth. Be strong, be courageous, and keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his ordinances, and his testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn. Then the Lord will establish his word that he spoke concerning me: ‘If your heirs take heed to their way, to walk before me in faithfulness with all their heart and with all their soul, there shall not fail you a successor on the throne of Israel.’
Then David slept with his ancestors, and was buried in the city of David. The time that David reigned over Israel was forty years; he reigned seven years in Hebron, and thirty-three years in Jerusalem. So Solomon sat on the throne of his father David; and his kingdom was firmly etablished.
Gospel: Mark 6:7-13
(Jesus sends out the twelve, two by two, to preach, anoint the sick, and work many cures.)
He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.
A legacy for the future
Politicians, business tycoons and other media celebrities are not alone in their desire to leave behind some worthwhile legacy. This idea of leaving behind something of value must be almost universal among adult human beings, once a person has come to terms with his or her mortality. Nobody really wants to feel that their transient life is utterly insignificant, something to be blown away like dust in the wind, with nothing to mark our few decades of life in this world. Hence the importance people put on founding a successful business, making their mark in society, making provision for some monument to their memory once they have passed on. But the most universal legacy of all is what parents leave behind to their children, by their example and the wisdom they try to share.
David’s deathbed advice to Solomon summarises much that a conscientious father might want to leave as a moral legacy to his son. The old king accepts with resignation that he is “about to go the way of all the earth.” He urges his successor to be courageous, but also to be faithful to his religious inheritance, “walking in the ways of the Lord your God.” The flavour of the book of Deuteronomy suffuses this account, with those stock phrases, “keeping his statutes, his commandments, his ordinances, and his testimonies,” and then the explicit reference to the law of Moses as the basic code of morality for Israel. Then he climaxes this moral advice with the recurrent Deuteronomist motivation, “so that you may prosper in all that you do.”
The legacy that Jesus leaves behind has more to do with sharing the good news of God’s love and mercy. He had taught his closest followers much about the kingdom of God, the state of harmony and renewal God desires among mankind. Life in such abundance cannot be selfish and must be shared. So a Christian must reach out to the neighbour whom we are to love equally as ourselves, and share with them our sense of God’s nearness. Therefore Jesus sent his disciples two by two, to preach, to anoint, to work miracles, to expel demons. What they have received from him must be shared with all men and women. What they share is given so freely that they move onward with no thought of profit for themselves, without food or traveling bag or even coins in the purse. Sandals are allowed, so that they can move all the more quickly in their mission of sharing the good news of Jesus.