FRIDAY THE TWENTY-EIGHTH OF SEPTEMBER, 2018
* Shūsaku Endō *
Grant me, O Lord, to know what I ought to know, to love what I ought to love, to praise what delights you most, to value what is precious in your sight, to hate what is offensive to you. Do not suffer me to judge according to the sight of my eyes, nor to pass sentence according to the hearing of the ears of ignorant men; but to discern with a true judgment between things visible and spiritual and, above all, always to inquire what is the good pleasure of your will.
( Thomas à Kempis, c.1380-1471) )
Wait, my soul, upon the Lord, to his gracious promise flee,
laying hold upon his word, as your days your strength shall be.
If the sorrows of your case seem peculiar still to be,
God has promised needful grace: as your days your strength shall be.
Days of trial, days of grief, in succession you may see;
this is still your sweet relief: as your days your strength shall be.
Rock of Ages, I am secure, with your promise, full and free,
faithful, positive and sure, as your days your strength shall be.
( William Freeman Lloyd, 1791-1853 )
MEDITATION by Tim Madsen
Shusaku Endo: love’s futility in a world of suffering
Today at Saint Laika’s, we remember Shūsaku Endō who died on the twenty-ninth of September 1996. He was a Japanese novelist, a Christian and someone who constantly challenged Japan’s culture through his novels.
Endō was born in Tokyo in 1923 and while still an infant moved with his family to Manchuria, where he gained first-hand experience of being a minority in an alien culture. His parents separated and later divorced and at age eleven he moved back to Japan with his mother and brother. Under the influence of his aunt the family was baptised and became Christians. At this time, Christians were less than one per cent of the Japanese population. When World War II broke out Endō suffered prejudice for his Christian faith, the faith of Japan’s Western “enemies.” After the war he completed his studies both in Japan and in France. In France, he contracted tuberculosis and was in and out of the hospital for three years.
Endō decided to write a life of Christ, so he journeyed to the Holy Land. It was a transformative journey for him. He was of the opinion that Christianity has a hard time taking root in Japan because Jesus was so often portrayed as suffering for us. In his “Life of Jesus”, he chose instead to show Jesus as a man who suffered along with us. Jesus had such love for others, Endō said, but it did him no good. Love is futile in a world of suffering.
The novel that is considered Endō's masterwork is “Silence” which tells the story of the Jesuit missionaries in seventeenth-century Japan who were imprisoned and tortured for their faith in Jesus Christ. The central character, Father Rodrigues, is forced to watch Japanese Christians being put to death for their faith. He, at first, stubbornly refuses to renounce his faith. His captors pledge that if he does so, all the other Christians will be spared. He is required to trample on an image of Christ. He is racked with guilt that his refusal to renounce his faith is causing the death of so many.
In a dream, Christ comes to him and speaks: “You may trample. You may trample. It was to be trampled on by men that I was born into this world. It was to share men’s pain that I carried my cross.”
Rodrigues tramples on the image of Christ and the others are freed. He lives the rest of his life in the ambiguity of having publicly renounced what he still privately believed.
Endō himself was a man of ambiguity. He was never quite accepted in Japan because of his Christian faith and he was never quite comfortable in his Christian faith either. He was continuously calling for a change in the way Christianity was being presented to the Japanese.
Scripture. In the third chapter of the "First Letter of John" at verses eighteen to twenty we read:
Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts.
... for peace in the world.
... for Christians in Japan, that God will inspire them to discover ways to make their faith relevant and understandable to the pople of their land.
... for writers of fiction.
... for those whose Christian faith makes them outsiders in their own communities.
... that we may have the courage to proclaim ourselves Christian even when doing so will have a negative impact on our lives.
... for those who ask questions when others are afraid to do so. DETAILS
... for the people of the Czech Republic who celebrate their national day today.
... for whales and all creatures threatened by humankind's pollution. DETAILS
... for those who have died recently and for those who mourn their passing.
... for those who are unwell and for those caring for them.
... for those, both close to us and far off, who we hold in our personal prayers.
... for ourselves.
THE LORD'S PRAYER
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever. Amen.
From "Silence" by Shūsaku Endō:
I, too, stood on the sacred image. For a moment this foot was on his face. It was on the face of the man who has been ever in my thoughts, on the face that was before me on the mountains, in my wanderings, in prison, on the best and most beautiful face that any man can ever know, on the face of him whom I have always longed to love. Even now that face is looking at me with eyes of pity from the plaque rubbed flat by many feet.
"Trample!" said those compassionate eyes. "Trample! Your foot suffers in pain; it must suffer like all the feet that have stepped on this plaque. But that pain alone is enough. I understand your pain and your suffering. It is for that reason that I am here."
"Lord, I resented your silence."
"I was not silent. I suffered beside you.”
Almighty God, we thank you for your gifts of grace given to your servant Shusaku Endo, who sought to present the truth of Christ in a world of brokenness and sin. May we be strengthened in our own faith as we become aware of his struggles. In the end, bring us to endless light and life with you. through Jesus Christ our saviour and lord. Amen.
May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life. Amen.
NOW LIGHT A CANDLE
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