►The Thanksgiving Mass to mark Blessed Takayama’s first Feastday was concelebrated at the Manila Cathedral Basilica, where Ukon Takayama and his exiled family had worshipped in 1614-1615. Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle was the lead celebrant – with three Archbishops, four Japanese Bishops and 25 Priests concelebrating.
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MY DEAR BROTHERS and sisters in Christ, we give thanks and praise to God for this day. We thank God for giving us the opportunity to be one community so that we could be renewed by his word, by his presence, by his spirit and also, by the gift of holy men and women to the church and to society.
Today, we give thanks to God for the gift of Blessed Ukon Justo Takayama and we welcome all of you. We welcome especially our dear bishops from Japan and all the pilgrims from Japan. Welcome, welcome. Welcome to the Manila Cathedral, the Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. We hope you will enjoy your stay in the Philippines. We hope also you will experience a renewal in discipleship in following Christ as we remember Blessed Ukon.
And to the Filipinos, we hope that we will receive Blessed Ukon Takayama who died as a martyr here in Manila. From Japan he blessed our soil, our land testimony of faith and of heroism. I’m sorry I cannot speak in Japanese, I cannot translate my homily into Japanese. But those of you who understand English maybe you can tell your friends later what I reflected upon.
Some people wonder whether Christians glorify suffering. The say how come you worship Jesus on the cross and you venerate the memory of martyrs those who have suffered? Are we making suffering some sort of a fashionable or glamorous thing? Is it an excuse for all the pain that the world experiences? I think the readings for the feast of Blessed Ukon gives us the Christian understanding. It is not in order to encourage inflicting suffering and pain on other people.
But we look to Jesus how did he look at suffering. And we see in the Gospel that Jesus has an integrated suffering within his mission. It is not accepting suffering in itself but in the context of mission, he finds meaning in suffering. His mission is to fulfill the will of the Father that humanity maybe saved. Jesus glorifies the Father by fulfilling his mission.
And if suffering is involved in fulfilling his mission He says yes. He is saying yes to the mission and if suffering is included in the mission, He will accept it too as He accepts His mission. And so it becomes a moment to glorify God. It is also a moment for him to be the seed of grain that falls to the earth and dies. It is a suffering with other people, by his suffering He becomes one with the earth, one with human beings, one with suffering creation.
His suffering is an act of solidarity. So, it is not just enjoying suffering. It is a suffering that has a meaning. It is a suffering for a mission. It is a suffering for the others. And so, it is not just a suffering it is giving of my life so that others may live. The world sees suffering but Jesus sees a gift of life. That’s a totally different perspective that’s why in the Eucharist we remember that; this is my body for you. This is my blood for you. May I know who among you here are parents with children?
Well you have a mission to be a good parent and part of the mission is a lot of suffering. You work hard not for yourself but for them. You get sick but still go to work. And you embrace that suffering because of your mission for them. Even if they are already grown up you are worried about them. You suffered daily because of your concerned for them. But it is because of your mission and because of your communion, solidarity with them. It is not useless. It is a gift of life for them, for others. So, it is not looking for suffering because we enjoy suffering. No, it is love. It is mission. It is gift of self that gives someone like Jesus the strength to suffer and die. With love you can suffer meaningfully and in the manner that gives life to others.
That’s why St. Paul in the first reading reminds us, when you suffer for God, when you suffer for others, when you suffer because of a mission, when you suffer because you’re giving yourselves out of love then, you are united with God. Some people when they suffer, they ask where is God? Has God abandoned me? But St. Paul says, nothing can separate us from the love of God. Jesus in the Gospel says, “Where I am I want you to be there too.” Jesus is loving us unto death and He wants us to be united with him. Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ who first love us and who loved us with all the sufferings that love can endure. So, why will we fear?
Have no fear. Love. And when you love you will have the strength to suffer People who love but are afraid of suffering do not know how to love. It is love for God, for others that gives someone the strength even to die. We are celebrating the love of Christ manifested to us in and through Blessed Ukon Justo Takayama. He knew the dangers. He was given a chance to turn away from Jesus and his faith. But he said no. I will keep my faith. I will remain faithful to Jesus. The world will say, Ukon, are you crazy? Why not save your life? Yes, he might be crazy. Crazy, because of love. He became foolish because he loved. And he paid the price of his love. But now his foolishness is wisdom for us. His weakness is strength for us. He’s telling all of us. Have no fear love. Love, love. And when you love, you know nothing can separate you from the strength that comes from Christ.
We are invited to be martyrs, witnesses every day. We don’t need to wait for martyrdom by blood. Every day, in our state of life we are asked by Jesus, “be with me witness to my love”. Give yourself to your mission, for others. Be united with sufferings. Nothing should separate you from the love of Christ. When we were singing the “Gloria,” you hear a lot of bells and bells. That’s okay, because according to the historical records when Ukon and his family and companions landed here in Manila the bells of the churches were rang including the bells of Manila Cathedral. And the missionaries, the Spanish missionaries, the Jesuits and the Christians here welcomed him. Already at the time they considered him a martyr, a witness to the love that won’t say no even to the point of suffering. So, now we are happy that the church had recognized him and from Japan, Philippines he will give witness to the whole world to the universal church.
So let us rejoice, give thanks to God and let us be one. Through Ukon, through Lorenzo Ruiz — Japan and the Philippines will always be one. Let us give witness to the world of the power of love that comes from the heart of Jesus. Let us now pause and continue thanking God for the gift of Jesus, the gift of mission and the gift of the great martyrs like Blessed Ukon.#