Fulfilled in Jesus

Our pilgrimage with our Beloved in Japan -- Yoko & Ramone on the journey with Jesus!

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Francis Xavier & Paul Anjiro - 1548




Japan's history with Christianity is a long one, filled with many difficult parts that we wish we could forget. Certainly many Japanese history textbooks throughout the years have sought to minimize the contributions Christianity made, as well as make it look like Hideyoshi knew all along that he would persecute the Christians. And we in the Church would probably like to forget that Christianity came to Japan on the boats of merchants and slave traders. We'd like to forget the Christian rebellion (the Shimabara Revolt) of 1637-1638, and we'd like to forget the Daimyos who, with Jesuit approval, ordered their subjects to tear down pagan temples and force mass conversions of their subjects. Most of all, we'd like to forget that the persecution of Christians was so thorough, and that so many apostasized.

Yet Christ said, "I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." So I don't think we'll benefit by forgetting. God lets these things happen for reasons we don't know, but that doesn't mean we need to be afraid of seeing them and struggling with them. Many fights hurt many people in Japan's history with Christianity, and many persecutions tried to bring Christianity to an end. But in His sovereignty, God let it happen. He even started it in motion. Why? Because He loves the Japanese people.

At the beginning He was there, moving hearts...

Francis Xavier bears the fame of being the first known Christian missionary to preach the gospel in Japan. Somewhat less well-known is Paul Anjiro (his real Japanese name may have been Yajiro), who bore the honor of being the first Japanese Christian. God was with them.

Anjiro, for certain reasons, killed a man and planned to flee on a Portugese friend of a friend's trading vessel. Yet when the time came, he set sail on the wrong ship. Yet the captain treated him kindly and told him of the hope in Christ. Likely Anjiro told him why he was running from Japan, and perhaps the captain knew that "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is gone and the new has come." Whatever they said in private, the effect was such on Anjiro that he desired to become a Christian as soon as possible. When they reached Malacca, a vicar refused to baptize Anjiro when he found out Anjiro's wife was pagan. Discouraged, Anjiro boarded a ship to China and then one to Japan. But within sight of Japan such a fierce storm arose that the crew was forced to turn back to China. That made Paul think, and helped him remember his desire to be made new in Christ. There in China, he met his Portugese friend again, who encouraged him to return to Malacca and India to meet Father Francis.

Francis Xavier, one of the founders of the new Jesuit order, had been in India for some years and has become famouse in Catholic history for his work there. Yet from his letters we know that Francis was disappointed with things there. When visiting Malacca, he met Anjiro and something happened. A fire lit up in Francis' heart for Japan. He approached his friends with the idea of beginning a mission to Japan and was instantly bombarded with all of the impossibilities, as well as the needs in India. When his friends told him of the dangers of the mission, Xavier asked them if God's servant's should be less afraid of taking risks than merchants and traders.

Xavier said, "Were I certain of finding myself in greater perils than those already experienced, I would not give up going to Japan, so strong is the impression on my mind and so great hope do I have in God that I shall see our holy religion propogated there."

Francis Xavier was a man of his times. He believed in going first to the political leaders and winning their conversion and permission for preaching. Perhaps this caused him to hinge the Gospel on political success, which would have sad consequences for missions and converts to follow in Japan. Yet something in Xavier inspired those around him. God was in His heart, and he had an inexplicable desire to share God with everyone he met and those who didn't know Him. God sent Anjiro to the right man, the one whose heart held room for Japan. They came together at the right time, and Anjiro clung to Francis.

Paul wrote that when Francis first saw him, Francis' face lit up with great joy, and he knew that God's providence had brought them together. "Already the mere sight of Father Francis had given me satisfaction and comfort... Great was my joy at seeing him. Indeed, from the first moment that I had seen him, I was conscious of a holy emotion which inspired in my heart the desire to be in his service and never to leave him."

Anjiro was baptised and took the name Paul. Together he, Francis and two other missionaries would go to Japan in 1549 and begin the Japanese Christian church. They would see successes and failures. Paul would see his family become Christian. Xavier would journey to Kyoto on a vain attempt to convert the powerless emperor. Paul would be left at Kagoshima to care for about 150 new Christians, and would be persecuted so strongly by Buddhist priests that he would flee everything. He ended up in China with pirates, likely loaded with guilt and depressingly thinking of his moment in the Light as a dream. He would die with the pirates. Xavier would spend 27 months in Japan before leaving to pursue missions in China. He would die on the way there.

It isn't the picture-perfect ending. Many things would later happen that would seem worse. Yet God was with them and burned in their hearts. Two men were made to meet each other, and for God's reasons, they brought the Gospel to Japan, imperfect as they were. God's heart brought them to Japan. We can still hear His heart today. It's the same heart that caught Xavier and Anjiro for that brief moment in history. Never let go of that heart, because it never stops beating for you.

*****

A favorite hymn of Francis Xavier's, often attributed to him:

"O God, Thou art the object of my love,
Not for the hopes of endless joys above,
Not for the fear of endless pains below
Which those who love Thee must not undergo.
For me and such as me Thou once didst bear
The ignominious cross, the nails, the spear;
A thorny crown transpierced Thy sacred brow;
What bloody sweats from every member flow!
For me in torture Thou resign'dst Thy breath,
Nailed to the cross, and sav'dst me by Thy death.
Say, can those sufferings fail my heart to move?
What but Thyself can now deserve my love?
Such as then was and is Thy love to me,
Such is, and shall be still, my love to Thee.
Thy love, O Jesus, may I ever sing,
O God of love, kind Parent, dearest King."


(translated by Dryden)

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