The Example of Kateri Tekakwitha

Matthew 10: 34-42
Is 1: 10-17 / Ps 50: 8-9, 16-17, 21 and 23

Whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.
(Mat.10:38)

Where there’s love, there’s also discord,
Just as peace is won with a sword;
‘Midst the strife, hold fast to God’s Word,
Where we have hope in God’s reward.

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

Rewards

Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple — truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward” (Matthew 10: 34-42).

Reflection

Today’s Gospel reading is a continuation of our Lord’s exhortation to His disciples to hold fast to the mission that they had to undertake. Earlier, Jesus urged them to put their trust completely in God for all their needs, and to forsake their material possessions (10:9). Then He urged them to bear the inevitable persecution (10:17-18). Now He sounded even more discouraging when He said, “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword,” and enumerated how even close family relationships would have to be sacrificed for His sake. But Jesus did not mean to dishearten His apostles or depress their enthusiasm when He urged them to be prepared for persecution and even forsake loved ones for His sake and for the Gospel. He was simply warning them (and all Christian generations) about the violent reactions and division that the proclamation of the Gospel would entail from people opposed to it. Our loyalty to Jesus must take precedence over all our attachments and affiliations, and as most of our martyrs exemplified in their lives, even to the point of torture and death.

We have as an example the life of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, (1656-1680), the first native of North America to be beatified, whose feast the Church celebrates today. Her father was a Mohawk chief, and her mother was a Catholic Algonquin. Kateri’s tribe did not accept her decision to become a Christian, and she was ostracized by the whole village. She was often threatened with torture or death if she did not renounce her faith. The increasing hostility of her people and her desire to devote her life to God led her to leave her village and travel on foot more than 322 kilometers to the Catholic mission of St. Francis Xavier at Sault Saint-Louis, near Montreal. Her journey through forests, rivers, and swamps took more than two months. Only her strong faith kept her alive. Kateri did not have any formal education, and yet she led a life of prayer and penitential practices. She taught the young and helped those who were poor or sick. But she herself was plagued with poor health throughout her life, leading to her untimely death at the age of 24. Like the lily that she was named for, her life was short but meaningful. Upon her death, her scarred and disfigured face was miraculously made beautiful by God. This miracle was witnessed by two priests and others who were present at her bedside. She was declared Venerable by Pope Pius XII on January 3, 1943, and Beatified by Pope John Paul II on June 30, 1980.

The life of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha exemplifies what total devotion to Jesus Christ means. Although she found true peace and love in her faith, it brought strife and division into her young life. This is the paradox of our Christian faith that we must all learn to accept and live with. But the miracle of her beautiful transformation in death was God’s way of showing us that a great reward awaits all who persevere to the end in their faith in Jesus Christ.

We thank You, Father God, for the lives of Your martyrs and saints, like Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha. We pray through their intercession for Your grace of wisdom and courage, that we may be able to follow their example in living our faith in Jesus Christ. Amen.

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