St. Isaac and St. John were among eight missionaries who worked among the Huron and Iroquois Indians in the New World in the seventeenth century. They were devoted to their work and were accomplishing many conversions. The conversions, though, were not welcomed by the tribes, and eventually St. Isaac was captured and imprisoned by the Iroquois for months. He was moved from village to village and was tortured and beaten all along the way. Eventually he was able to escape and return to France. But zeal for his mission compelled him to return, and to resume his work among the Indians when a peace treaty was signed in 1646. His belief that the peace treaty would be observed turned out to be false hope, and he was captured by a Mohawk war party and beheaded.
St. John worked among the Iroquois and ministered to them amid a smallpox epidemic. As a scholastic Jesuit, he was able to compose a catechism and write a dictionary in the Huron language, which made possible many conversions. He was eventually captured, tortured and killed by the Iroquois.
Anything worthwhile costs us something, and that’s especially true of our faith. If we are serious about it, if we love God and want to be caught up in his life, we’re going to have to pay for it in some way. Saints Isaac, John, and their companions make that clear. One of the biggest costs to us, I think, is our comfort zone. To really live the faith, we have to get out of that comfort and do what God wants of us. In the Gospel, Jesus was telling his disciples that they would have to give witness to him. And they understood that that would cost them something – perhaps cost them their lives.
We disciples are also going to have to pay some price for living our faith. Probably not something as drastic as being tortured and beheaded, but something fairly costly for us. For us today, perhaps that cost is giving up a beautiful fall Saturday to clean church pews, or trim a neighbor’s hedges, or sing songs at a nursing home, or any of the myriad of projects we are planning today.
Today, on our Make a Difference Day, we give strong witness to our faith in our work. As we come together to pack meals at Feed My Starving Children, spend time in adoration praying for our community, or clean up our parish grounds, our presence and concern may be the way God is using us to get someone’s attention and see his presence in her or his life. Living our faith is always going to cost us something and that something is likely to be status or popularity, or at least the wondering glance from people who aren’t ready to accept the faith. But the volumes that we speak by living our faith anyway might just lay the groundwork for conversion and become a conduit of grace. We are told that we don’t have to hammer out all the words we want to say; that the Holy Spirit will give us eloquence that we can only dream of. And it’s true, if we trust God, if we live our faith when it’s popular or unpopular, we will have the Spirit and the words. God only knows what can be accomplished in those grace-filled moments! I pray that you see Christ everywhere as you witness today.