Saints Paul Miki and his Companions, Martyrs – Readings

Commentary on Galatians 2:19-20, or 2 Maccabees 7:1a, 20-23; Psalm 113; Matthew 28:16-20

The Gospel reading is from the very end of Matthew’s gospel.  We find the disciples of Jesus gathered, at his instructions, on a mountain in Galilee, the scene of most of Jesus’ public life and where many of his disciples came from.  It is after the resurrection, and the disciples have some problems in recognising their Risen Master.  They have yet to learn that the Risen Jesus is to be recognised in many different faces, in fact, in the face of every one of his followers.

Jesus is about to leave them to go to his Father but, before he goes, he passes on his mission to them.  They are to do what he did.  He tells them,

Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations – baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

And they are to teach the new followers just what Jesus had taught them, in other words, all that we read in the Gospel. And then there are the final words of encouragement:

Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.

This is a reminder of the message given to Joseph when he was told that he should take Mary, already pregnant with child, as his wife.  He was reminded that the virgin mother had been foretold by Isaiah:

Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall call him Emmanuel.

Matthew tells us that ‘Emmanuel’ means ‘God is with us’, and Jesus is now telling his disciples and all other followers that he is Emmanuel, that he will be with his followers for ever.

It was in their obeying of these instructions, making disciples for Christ and baptising them, that Paul Miki and his companions were persecuted, arrested, and at the end, cynically condemned to the same fate as their Master – death on a cross.

In today’s First Reading, from the Letter to the Galatians, the Apostle Paul utters words which are perfectly fitted to the martyrdom of the Japanese Paul and his companions:

I have been crucified [literally, co-crucified, sun-estauromai] with Christ; yet I live no longer, but Christ lives in me.

There could not be a more perfect identification with Christ than that manifested by these Nagasaki martyrs, who disregarded their own temporal interests to identify themselves with their crucified Saviour, confident they would rise with him.

This day you will be with me.”

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