Memorial of St. Joan of Arc
Yesterday we were on the hillside receiving bread; now we are in the vineyard. Today Jesus gives us a vivid parable about some wicked tenants whose violence toward the servants of the landlord escalates to the point where he decides to send his “beloved son.” It is not hard for us to see Jesus is telling a parable about Himself and His eventual death at that hands of the “tenants” of this world His Father has given us. He speaks also of the prophets who came before Him who, according to the Letter to the Hebrews “…were tortured and would not accept deliverance, in order to obtain a better resurrection. Others endured mockery, scourging, even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, sawed in two, put to death at sword’s point…” (11:35-37)
This parable is not only about Jesus and the sacrifice He made of His life for our sake, but also about those who come among us in His name: the prophets of ages before Him, and the prophetic saints in the ages after. What we learn in today’s Gospel is that those who give their lives to Jesus also give their lives for Jesus, in as many different ways as there are different saints.
St. Joan of Arc, who the Church remembers today, is a perfect example of this. An uneducated peasant girl from 15th-century France, she was inspired by what she called her “voices,” naming St. Michael, St. Catherine of Alexandria, and St. Margaret as their source. These led her on a three-year campaign of unlikely victories, not only securing the crown for her king but also giving the English a run for their money.
Yet more miraculous is the effect her example of faith had on those who knew her. In the years following her death—burned at the stake at age 19 on charges of heresy by corrupt Church officials with English sympathies—the Church reopened her case. Witness after witness testified to her holiness, even battle-hardened soldiers swearing under oath that when she was around, no one cursed or swore or did anything impure; she was a light in the midst of a ghastly darkness. She, like so many saints, was sent among us to proclaim the greatness of God, to obtain for God “some of the produce of the vineyard,” and she was treated just as Jesus was treated: with suspicion, mistreatment, and death. The saints amaze us by their example, and why not? In giving their lives to Christ and for Him, they have also given their lives—as He did—for us, and we realize that “the world was not worthy of them.” (Hebrews 11:38) Who are we to receive the gift of Christ’s life? Who are we to receive the gift of one another?
Each of us, in giving ourselves to Christ, enter into His life, which includes being sent into the vineyard as a beloved child of God. Our baptism makes us sons and daughters of God; our communion with Christ means we live His life as the Only Begotten, that the Father loves us with the same love by which He loves His only Child. He sends each of us into the world to speak to its every tenant and to call forth fruit from them, with mixed results. Sometimes we are met with opposition, even violence, but we need not fear: for even should the tenants turn on us we know, by Christ’s own example, that those who give their lives not only to Him but also for Him, also come to live with Him forever.