St. Francis Xavier and Epiphany of the Divine and the Human

Source: Wikipedia

The feast of Goycho Saib St. Francis Xavier `set Goans of all walks of life as well as the entire Goa on fire.  He seems to have actualised the parting command of his   general, St. Ignatius Loyola, who had ordered him to set the world on fire. Come 3rd December, the catholic world stops to pay homage to one of its great sons.  We in Goa join the catholic world with a sense of confidence and belief that St. Francis Xavier belongs to Goa and Goans. He is invoked as Goycho Saib for centuries. His restlessness for God and his people continues even long after his death as he continues to attract tens and thousands to his feet. He always believed that the Church existed for the people and its primary mission was to empathize and accompany the people in their daily struggles. This is why even though he was a Papal Nuncio to India, he always choose to live simplicity of life that gave him direct ways of interacting with the people. Goa therefore, was merely a stepping stone towards a larger mission. He is said to have lived in Goa only for seven month that too is added up by interruption of his three visits from elsewhere. Paradoxically, it is in his death he becomes great figure to all Goans. He was a man in a hurry and choose more direct field work rather than the comfort of institutions. 

St Francis lived in a cave next to the sea and worked with the exploited pear-fishers in Comorin, in South India. His profound concern for them led to the mass conversion of the Parava community. He truly understood that Jesus was fully God and fully human and worked hard to uphold the fullness of human and divine in the society of his times.  He left no stone unturned to present Jesus as the one whom Indians hearts were longing.  We may say that he strove hard to present Jesus as Ecce Homo (Jn 19:5) to the people of his time.   He accompanied the Parava community in its struggles against exploitation and oppression.  He communicated Jesus as all things to all and he himself  become all things to all. He may have not known the profoundly inspirational text of Rig-veda that man is certainly all this / Purusha evedam sarvam (Rig-veda. X, 90, 2) but one  might say that he lived it to the fullest.  Indeed, he become a chistopahany, an epiphany of Our Lord Jesus Christ  in his entire life and continues to be so even today in several ways through the educational institutions that are running across the world in his name and all the more through the relics of his body  that attracts thousands of pilgrims from across the globe.     

He was truly a great pioneer in mission and displayed deep faith, grit and guts in his work.  He gave his all for the mission of Christ and gave up the comfort of Intuitions in Goa and went and lived with the people. He saw God’s glory in the victories of the daily struggle of simple people and celebrated them. His missionary sojourns in Japan, Malacca and Moluccas are well known. His thirst for missionary work led him to sail to China but as God would have it he did not reach his covetous destination. He died on the island of  Sancian looking at China, the land of his dreams. With the name of Jesus on his lips he gave his life in the hands of God. God rewarded him for his great sacrifices and heroic life and his body remained incorruptible and completely fresh. It was brought to Goa via Malacca and now  his sacred relics are venerated by ten and thousands of people in the Basilica  of Bon Jesus in Old Goa.  He was beatified in October 1619 and canonized on March 12th 1622 along with Ignatius of Loyola.   

The letters of St Francis Xavier and hagiographies of his life ignite the faith of  Catholics down the centuries.  They present his heroic life of profound spiritual depth. He  lived the Jesuit charisma of contemplative action and magis  to perfection.  He followed Ignatian  dictum that exhorted the Jesuit to enter through the door of the people but bring them out through the door of Christ. He worked hard to multiply his effect and influence by influencing  the influential. But in all things he displays matchless trust in God’s providence.  We can look at the life of St. Francis as a spiritual journey. It had it’s ups and downs. He did display misunderstanding of the ways of the people of the east. We may have issues with his theology of mission and consider our own more enlightened. Yet we cannot take away from him his sheer courage, his deep faith , all embracing compassion and profound zeal for missions. He is certainly a man of his times , but continues to be saint for our times. 

St. Francis Xavier continues to inspire us even today. He challenges us to become a Christophany, an epiphany of our Lord Jesus Christ to all people. The pastoral theme for this year that exhorts us ‘to  go and do likewise’ has this trust of mission and the invitation to become living sacrament of our Lord Jesus today.  This task is not easy. Our doctrines, beliefs or Christologies are not enough. Christophany is deeply grounded in experience/ anubhava of both God and humans. It consists in finding God in the fullness of life in everyday human life.  Our life and mission has to become a profound manifestation of fullness of life, particularly human life. Mission today has to become an anthropohany  ( manifestation fullness of human life)  and the Church has to become ecclesiophany ( manifestation fullness of the divine and human) of God. St. Francis Xavier did it before us. Several of his battles still remain un-fought.  His struggle against caste and moral degradation continues to challenge all Catholics in India even today. He seems to be telling us in silence that we cannot serve Christ and Caste at the same time. We are still challenged to shun aside both moral as well as practical relativism. He continues to unite us in Old Goa and challenges us to live in harmony and peace with all.  His presence in Goa and his heroic saintly life continues to draws us all to God and the Gospel. May Francis Xavier continue to Pray for Us all.  Happy feast to all!

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao