Today we celebrate the life and witness of St. Andrew Kim Taegon and his companions. St. Andrew Kim’s parents were both converts to the Catholic faith. They both boldly lived the joy of their new life in Christ Jesus. In fact, his father preceded him as a martyr for the Faith. St. Andrew Kim heard God calling him to the priesthood, and he was the first native Korean ordained to the priesthood. It was not an easy vocation for him. At the time, Korea had a policy of isolation from other countries; only paying a tax to China once a year. They did allow any foreigners nor their ideas into the country. St. Andrew Kim had to travel thousands of miles to a seminary in China to study for the priesthood, and once he was ordained, he had to be snuck back into Korea. He brought the joy of Christ’s love to many Korean people. In him, they encountered the Mysterious Other for whom their hearts so yearned. For his witness, he was arrested, tortured and then beheaded in 1848.
Why would someone willingly subject themselves to such a difficult life? The only answer is an extraordinary encounter with Jesus. In today’s Gospel reading we hear the story of the woman who wept at the feet of Jesus, cleaning His feet with her tears and drying them with her hair. We do not know how she first encountered Jesus, but she clearly experienced His extraordinary love and mercy, and her encounter with Him changed her life, and moved her to give witness to Jesus by her actions. Coming to Jesus as she did, she exposed herself to criticism and the judgments of the people of the town, who saw her as a great sinner. But she did not care; she was filled with the joy of her redemption and salvation.
Her tears and the blood of the martyrs like St. Andrew Kim and the other Koreans are seed for the Faith, and from their seed countless number of Christians have sprung forth. All giving witness to the joy of redemption. Are we filled with that same joy? Or do we take our redemption and salvation for granted? Do we allow the difficulties, obstacles and challenges of living our faith in a culture that is fundamentally at odds with our Christian Faith to cause us to hide in the background, or do we allow them to embolden us to witness the faith even more courageously? St. Andrew Kim and your companions, pray for us.