Memorial of Saint Peter Claver
Colossians 3: 12-17, Luke 6: 27-38
“Let the word of Christ take root in you in a powerful way. Let it remain in your heart and mind as a rich treasure. May it completely consume your life” (Col. 3:16). When you are filled with the word spiritual riches will flow out of you to bring life to everyone around you. Ever since I was in grade school Peter Claver captured my imagination. Early on in his training, he recorded these words in his diary: “I must dedicate myself to the service of God until death, on the understanding that I am like a slave.” Pondering the Sacred Text, he was convinced that all that had life, all that had beauty, all that was good and true came from God who is love. He was humbled by the knowledge of God’s love and moved by that knowledge he sought to show compassion to others.
He saw slaves as human beings capable of loving and of being loved. It was his practice to board slave ships as soon as they came to port and minister to the terrified, sick, and mistreated human cargo crammed in the hulls. Peter Claver was so consumed by the Word that planted in the midst of the people he served it produced a rich harvest. It is estimated that he baptized 300,000 enslaved individuals. Seeing himself as a slave among slaves, he shared his poverty, offering them all that he had, a heart enlarged with the love of Christ and a hand extended in compassion.
The Word of God was a sacred trust which he carried in his heart. The Word of God was a Pearl of great price which he offered to all he met. While his primary concern was for the slaves, he also reached out to the sailors, planters, and overseers. The horizon of his loving concern included the whole world. Through years of unremitting toil and unflinching dedication, the slaves’ situation slowly improved. Needless to say, there is still more work to be done.
The love of Christ, crucified and risen from the dead must remain at the center of our daily lives. In the face of our racist, sexist, materialist, and selfish society, who will serve the needs of the abused, rejected, and marginalized members of our human family? Who will defend the inalienable right to life for the defenseless babies in the face of a society that sees them as expendable chattels? Who will defend the right to dignity and care for the powerless elderly in the face of a society that sees them as obstacles to realizing their desires? Who will defend the dignity of the homeless refugees in the face of a society that sees them as a threat to its national interest? May the Word of God give us guidance in how to correct the evils of our society and truly manifest the glory of God shining on the face of every man, woman, and child living in the world.
Especially in these distressing times, we need to remember that God does not abandon us. He abides with us in his merciful love, which is everlasting. I will close with a few words spoken by Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco at the opening of the Eucharistic Congress in Budapest. “You are not alone in a hostile universe, you are not alone before the marvelous mystery of life, you are not alone with your thirst for freedom and eternity. Wherever you are, you are not invisible, God looks at you with love; you are not an orphan, God is your Father; you are worth the blood of Jesus, Redeemer of the world, and Bread of eternal life. Do not be afraid: God is not dead, the Eucharist overcomes every loneliness, every distance, every indifference.” Saint Peter Claver, pray for us.