By Rev. Paul Raftery, O.P.
Thomas Aquinas College
September 24, 2015
Today, for this Mass in honor of the newest canonized saint — our saint here in California, who set up a mission just a few miles from here, San Buenaventura — we have these readings about people very different from him, people plagued by fear and hesitancy.
We have the Jewish remnant, just coming back from captivity to Jerusalem in the first reading (HG 1:1-8), beginning to settle the land, to build their homes and put down their crops. Yet they are reluctant to embark upon the construction of the temple. They say to themselves, “This is not the time. The right moment hasn’t come yet.” So there is a fear in them and a hesitancy that is holding them back from doing the important work of rebuilding the temple and starting up once again the public worship of God that is asked for in the Sacred Scriptures. To overcome this fear and excuse-making, God then sends the prophet Haggai to them to say, “No, this is the time. You have these nice homes, food, and wine, but you don’t have the more important service, the ceremonies of public worship through which you give thanks and honor to God Who sends all these blessings. Get to work on the temple.”
And in our Gospel we have the fearful Herod, so concerned with what people think and say, wondering about all the reports of Christ’s preaching and miracles, fearful of Who this was, Who was drawing people’s attention and taking much attention away from him. So there is a theme of the fearfulness that paralyzes us from seeking God in sincerity, from being truly close to Him, and taking part in His great work of redeeming the world. But as we see in the life of St. Serra, when the Holy Spirit becomes active in us, through His gift of fortitude, we become free from any paralyzing fear and allow God to do great things through us.
And if there is one virtue he especially manifested in his life, it was supernatural courage. He was always pressing on to do great things, not remaining content where he was. Although he started out a very gifted intellectual and teacher of philosophy, and could have been content staying in his native land of Majorca, he responded to God’s inspiration to go to Mexico as a missionary. Then, once arriving in Mexico, he could very well have been content there and held back due to various health problems, doing administrative work for the missions. But still, moved by the fire of Divine Love, he was not content; so with great fortitude he pressed on to establish missions in California among the native peoples.
It was a marvel to his fellow friars how, even when seeming on the verge of death, he revived to continue on. Siempre adelante was his motto, “always move forward.” His continual trust in God and taking courage in Him allowed St. Junipero Serra to set up an impressive chain of nine missions from San Diego to Monterey, baptizing during his work in California over 6,700 souls. His is a courage and zeal we must imitate
On this day to this great new saint, let us ask for his intercession, that we might, too, have this supernatural courage and zeal, and be moved by the Holy Spirit, in our own lives, to take up that work that God wishes for us, through which we will win many souls for Him.
St. Junipero Serra, pray for us, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.