Sunday, November 29, 2009

Servant of God John of Monte Corvino (1247-1328)

At a time when the Church was heavily embroiled in nationalistic rivalries within Europe, it was also reaching across Asia to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Mongols. John of Monte Corvino went to China about the same time Marco Polo was returning. John was a soldier, judge and doctor before he became a friar. Prior to going to Tabriz, Persia (present-day Iran), in 1278, he was well known for his preaching and teaching. In 1291 he left Tabriz as a legate of Pope Nicholas IV to the court of Kublai Khan. An Italian merchant, a Dominican friar and John travelled to western India where the Dominican died. When John and the Italian merchant arrived in China in 1294, Kublai Khan had recently died. Nestorian Christians, successors to the dissidents of the fifth-century Council of Ephesus’ teaching on Jesus Christ, had been in China since the seventh century. John converted some of them and also some of the Chinese, including Prince George from Tenduk, northwest of Beijing. Prince George named his son after this holy friar. John established his headquarters in Khanbalik (now Beijing), where he built two churches; his was the first resident Catholic mission in the country. By 1304 he had translated the Psalms and the New Testament into the Tatar language. Responding to two letters from John, Pope Clement V named John Archbishop of Khanbalik in 1307 and consecrated seven friars as bishops of neighbouring dioceses. One of the seven never left Europe. Three others died along the way to China; the remaining three bishops and the friars who accompanied them arrived there in 1308. When John died in 1328, he was mourned by Christians and non-Christians. His tomb quickly became a place of pilgrimage. In 1368, Christianity was banished from China when the Mongols were expelled and the Ming dynasty began. John’s cause has been introduced in Rome.
When John of Monte Corvino went to China, he represented the Church’s desire to preach the gospel to a new culture and to be enriched by it. The travels of Pope John Paul II have demonstrated the universality of the Good News and the urgent need to continue the challenging work of helping the Good News take root in a variety of cultural situations.
In 1975, Pope Paul VI wrote, "The Church evangelizes when she seeks to convert, solely through the divine power of the Message she proclaims, both the personal and collective consciences of people, the activities in which they engage, and the lives and concrete milieus which are theirs" (Evangelization in the Modern World, #18).

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke (21.25-28, 34-36)

There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near. Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.

Temptation to sin
(Homily by Fr. E.J.Tyler)

There is a special aura about childhood. The child is the object of the love and joy of the parents, and it is not hard to see why our Lord held up the child for our imitation. We must become like little children, he said. Of course, our Lord was referring to one aspect of childhood - the child’s docility and dependence on the guidance of his parents. As the child advances in age, he is prepared for the challenges of life. There are great tests ahead of him. He must choose a suitable career, one which hopefully is his calling. Then he must make his way in it with some success. Marriage will probably be his vocation, unless he has a more distinct calling. As he is growing, the parents and those involved in his upbringing hope that what they are providing will lay the foundations for success. In the event, life could bring enormous challenges. He may fall victim to some great tragedy, be it sickness, bereavement, loss of property or work, injustice, loss of reputation, breakdown of marriage, failure in this or that undertaking. These are great unknowns, and the parents must do what they can to prepare their child for life as it may come. Still, they are unknowns. However, there is a future challenge which is absolutely predictable and it will come constantly. It comes to everyone, and it comes daily. It is the most serious of all challenges and everything ultimately hangs in the balance of its outcome. It is the challenge par excellence which every person must be trained for. I am referring to the challenge constituted by the temptation to sin. Every person will be tempted to sin and the eternal future of each person hangs on the upshot. Sadly, especially in a modern secular culture, the temptation to sin is not recognized as objective and important. It is a trivial and private persuasion which is unmentionable in any public sense. Consider what would be the response were “temptation to sin” to be mentioned on a television panel discussing the most serious challenges facing society and culture. There would be an awkward and profound silence, broken perhaps by a joke.

The greatest challenge facing each, be he high or low, is the temptation to sin. This is the challenge of life in a micro sense and it is the challenge in a macro sense. That is to say, it is the principal challenge facing the most ordinary and unrecognized person and it is the challenge facing the nations. Secularism has so pervaded the world that it is almost inconceivable that the word “sin” be mentioned in public - let alone world - discourse. But just as an individual can sin and sin grievously, so can a government, a people, and the world at large. Sin once appeared even in heaven, and heaven broke up as a result. That is to say, a portion of the angelic world was expelled and a new state of life began: Hell, the everlasting death. The temptation to sin was the greatest challenge facing the Angels themselves, and it was the greatest challenge facing man at the beginning. Man failed the challenge, because he gave into its temptation. It has always been the greatest challenge facing man, and it is a daily one. In our Gospel passage today, our Lord describes in plain yet vivid terms the falling away of the world before the coming of Christ to judge. The ultimate event in the life of each individual and in the life of the nations will be the judgment of Christ. He will come to judge at the end - at the end of each life and at the end of history. In view of this, Christ says to us: Be careful, be always on the watch! Do not give in to temptation. Do not sin. If you sin, repent of it. “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke:21: 25-28,34-36). In the Lord’s Prayer we ask God to “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” We ask that he not leave us alone and in the power of temptation, but that he give us vigilance and perseverance.

As we think of our Lord’s words telling us to be careful and to be always on the watch, let us renew our resolve to resist temptation to sin. We must ask the Holy Spirit to help us to discern between trials that bring growth, and temptations to sin that lead to death. Let us ask for the grace to discern between being merely tempted on the one hand, and not consenting to temptation on the other. Let us resolve to understand clearly that the greatest challenge of every day, and the greatest challenge facing all mankind, it that of resisting the temptation to sin. The greatest achievement is that of resisting sin, and the greatest failure is succumbing to temptation. If we do succumb, we must turn to the mercy of God, repent, and resume the grand struggle for him.

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