Tuesday of 12th Week in Course 2019
St. Dominic Henares, bishop
If you look carefully at the long Biblical accounts of the life of Abraham–here identified as Abram before the Lord changed his name–you might wonder why God chose him. The answer is similar to the reply to the question “why does God choose anybody, especially me?” And that answer is “God loves him” or “God loves me.” Abram was a simple sheep farmer but he responded to God’s call, and that’s why we remember him. God asked him to leave his home, and he did. God sent him to Palestine, and he went. Ultimately, God asked him to offer his only beloved son in sacrifice, and he was ready to do that as well when an angel stopped him. God asked, Abraham responded. That’s the way of life of the believer, made perfect in the Father’s only begotten Son, Our Lord Jesus. We come together to pray for the grace to imitate Him and to draw many others to this way of life.
The brief collection of sayings reported in today’s Gospel is part of the Sermon on the Mount, and they don’t necessarily fit together well. I like to look at them like the Book of Proverbs. There may be no logical connection between each verse, but they are all truths, all part of the Torah of Jesus. In the midst is Matthew’s translation of the Golden Rule: “what you want others to do to you, do that to them.” Jesus is saying that this simple moral rule sums up all of the Old Testament. In time, at the Last Supper, he deepens and expands this rule into His own law of love, which tells us to show love to one another in the same measure that Jesus showed love to us–all the way to death. Give until you have no more to give.
It would be good to consider carefully the meaning of Christ’s words at the end of today’s reading: “the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” The path to destruction, by contrast, is broad and taken by many. Does this mean that the vast majority of humankind are damned to hell? If this were the only datum you had to learn from, you would probably reach that conclusion.
But the Church has never taught that only a few people are saved. St. Paul tells Timothy that God wants all humans to be saved “and to come to knowledge of the truth.” God the Father loves us so much that He gave His only-begotten Son up to death for our salvation, so that we all might die to sin and participate in His Resurrection. This is the reason the Church has sent missionaries all over the world, from the very beginning of our history.
Our saint today exemplifies this obedience to God’s will. Saint Dominic Henares, “born to a poor family, Joined the Dominicans at the Santa Croce monastery in Granada, Spain in 1783.” Two years later, as a seminarian, he was sent to the Far East missions, and in Manila he studied and taught at the College of St. Thomas. He was ordained at the age of twenty-five, just seven years after joining the Dominicans.
Ten years later, he was considered so holy and effective that Pope Pius VII had him ordained, with Ignatius Delgado, bishop of Eastern Tonkin in Vietnam, where two years later the Nguyen dynasty began to tolerate Catholicism. Then in 1803 Dominic became bishop of Phunhay, Vietnam. He labored there for thirty-five years, growing the Catholic Church in an increasingly hostile Confucian culture. A violent anti-Catholic persecution began in the late 1830's, leading to the arrest of bishop Dominic and his execution on this day in 1838. He is also venerated on November 24 as one of the many Vietnamese martyrs.
Ultimately, the Church and her missionaries do all these things in response to the commands of Jesus to love even unbelievers as Jesus loves them, to do to others as they would want others to do to themselves. We should all daily accept the grace of Christ that urges us to have that kind of love and to share as well as we can the good news of salvation, sacrament and service. And so we pray: St. Dominic Henares, pray for us.