13th Sunday Ordinary Time
Year A

"The Lord is slow to anger"

Most countries have received the Catholic faith from foreign missionaries. Korea was first evangelized by a Korean.

In the eighteenth century, certain Christian writings in Chinese began to find their way into nearby Korea. One prominent gentleman named Yi-Sung-Hun was attracted by what he read. In 1184, while visiting Peking, China, on a diplomatic mission, he sought out the Portuguese Catholic missionaries there. Receiving baptism from them he brought Christianity back home and spread the good news. When a Chinese Catholic priest finally visited Korea ten years later, he found 4,000 Korean Christians who owed their faith to Yi-Sung-Hun.

By the time French missionaries arrived in Korea in the 1830's to establish a formal mission, the number of Korean Catholics had already doubled. But a bloody persecution against them had already begun. In 1925 Pope Pius XI beatified their first missionary bishop, the Frenchman, Lawrence Imbert, and eighty other missionaries and native Korean Christians, On May 6, 1984, Pope John Paul II, visiting Korea, canonized 103 of the nineteenth century martyrs - men and women from every walk of life.

The National Catholic News Service, recounting their canonization, told the story of one of these martyrs, Protasius Chong, whose road to martyrdom was especially striking. Chong worked in a rope factory in Seoul. When he was thirty, he learned about the Church and was baptized. After that, he welcomed missionaries to his rural home, despite the persecution, and invited all the other Catholics in the district to attend Mass there.

In 1839, when Protasius was forty-one, he was arrested by the state, interrogated for several days, and severely beaten. Finally, he gave in and said he would renounce the Christian faith. So he was released and sent home.

But, by the time Chong reached home, he had already begun to feel ashamed of having buckled under, even though he had done so under great pressure. So he went back to the judge and told him that he was withdrawing his recantation.

The judge, of course, re-arrested Protasius and picked up where he had left off. He made him lie flat on his stomach and had him beaten twenty-five times on the back with a heavy cudgel. A few hours later, Protasius Chong joined the ranks of the other martyrs who had thought he was lost to them.

Our Lord once asked his followers, Which son truly obeys his father: the one who says "I am on my way, sir," and then doesn't go; or the other who says, "No, I will not," but on second thought, does go? Of course, the answer was "the second one" (Matt. 21:28-31). Protasius became a saint not because he denied his faith under pressure, but because "afterward he regretted it and went."

What a comfort to know we have a God who (as today's psalm says) is "slow to anger and of great kindness." If our hearts are right, he is always ready to give us a second chance.

Otherwise, what would become of us bunglers?

-Father Robert F. McNamara

Q325: How do I “take up my cross” in this modern world, as Jesus desires (Mt 10:37-42), and what does that really mean today?

This gospel usually makes me feel very “uncomfortable.” After all, the “cross” in this context is not something you wear as a decoration around your neck. No, Jesus was talking about something much more significant. As always, the Gospel is a continuing challenge to Catholics to live a meaningful Christian life – even during persecution.

So what is “meaningful”? Look at some of the descriptions Jesus uses. He is saying that our central focus must always be on Jesus, and nothing else. Jesus must be the center of our lives, even ahead of family bonds, and our lives must follow the pattern or way of His life. The life of Christ was one of unconditional love, selfless outreach, and compassionate giving. Above all, every action he took or word he spoke was entirely in accord with the will of His Father. That was the crucial criterion above all else. It even led to His death for our salvation, an unsurpassable gift!

That life of selflessness is what you and I are called to imitate. This is the foundational calling of every Christian. It may mean pain and persecution. It always calls for the obedience of faith, trust in a loving God, and humble acceptance of the teachings of the apostles and their successors, the Roman Catholic bishops.

KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! The “first vocation” is always to follow Jesus. Belonging to God’s family is necessarily the goal of every individual and family (CCC#2232-33). Our personal crosses (e.g., illness, or even a ridiculed counter-cultural Christian life) can become redemptive with the proper focus (CCC#1506; cf. Col 1:24). The “way of the cross” is the “way of penance and renewal” to extend Christ’s kingdom (CCC#853). Living an “unselfish” life is a sign of a true disciple.