Francis Xavier had planned to devote himself to the intellectual life, but at a strategic moment he surrendered to God, who had long and patiently pursued him. That surrender changed the course of his life—and the course of history as well. Even Ignatius of Loyola, the leader of the new Jesuit community, had planned to deploy Francis as a scholar. But India beckoned, and Ignatius reluctantly sent Francis to preach the gospel there.
Wherever he went, Xavier lived with the poorest people, sharing their food and rough accommodations. He spent countless hours ministering to the sick and the poor, particularly to lepers. Miracles of healing occurred frequently in his ministry to poor villages. Very often he had no time to sleep or even to say his breviary but, as we know from his letters, he was filled always with joy. In his passion for spreading the gospel, in his simple obedience, in his humble disregard for himself, the saint was a near perfect imitation of Christ. Thus, the man who had planned on a leisurely intellectual life became a missionary apostle, perhaps second only to Saint Paul.
All of us are called to “go and preach to all nations” (Matthew 28:19). Our preaching is not necessarily on distant shores but to our families, our children, our husband or wife, our coworkers. And we are called to preach not with words, but by our everyday lives. Only by sacrifice, the giving up of all selfish gain, could Francis Xavier be free to bear the Good News to the world. Sacrifice is leaving yourself behind at times for a greater good, the good of prayer, the good of helping someone in need, the good of just listening to another. The greatest gift we have is our time. Francis Xavier gave his to others.