“All nations will come to climb the mountain of the Lord,” the Prophet Isaiah says in our Advent readings. Joining Portuguese merchants, Saint Francis Xavier went to far-off Asia, not for exotic spices and goods, but to call new followers to Jesus Christ.
For 10 years, Francis Xavier labored in India, Japan and southeast Asia to bring the gospel to the native peoples of these lands. In a letter to St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, he explains that he’s so busy teaching and baptizing he has hardly a minute to himself. “Send help,” he says.
“Many, many people hereabouts are not becoming Christians for one reason only: there is nobody to make them Christians. Again and again I have thought of going round the universities of Europe, especially Paris, and everywhere crying out like a madman, riveting the attention of those with more learning than charity: ‘What a tragedy: how many souls are being shut out of heaven and falling into hell, thanks to you!’”
He’s driven by missionary zeal. Today, unfortunately, we’re becoming more like those university people in Paris– concerned about ourselves and ready to let the rest of the world go by.
The statue of Saint Francis Xavier above is in the beautiful church of the Sacred Heart in Springfield, MA, where Father Theodore Foley went as a boy. Was it put there after a Novena of Grace preached by some Jesuit missionaries, I wonder? How many people, like Theodore Foley, heard the story of the fiery missionary and saw themselves called to be missionaries ?
The Prophet Isaiah’s call to the nations is not confined to his time. God’s mission to the nations is for our time too.