09 Sep – Memorial for St. Peter Claver, priest
Peter Claver (1581-1654) was born in Spain, a farmer’s son. He studied at the University of Barcelona and was a Jesuit from the age of 20. Influenced by St. Alphonsus Rodriguez to become a missionary in America, he ministered, physically and spiritually, to slaves when they arrived in Cartegena, converting a reported 300,000 and working for humane treatment on the plantations for 40 years. He also organized charitiable societies among the Spanish in America similar to those organized in Europe by St. Vincent de Paul.
He is also know as Slave of the Blacks, of which he said, “We must speak to them with our hands by giving, before we try to speak to them with our lips.”
Prayer to St. Peter Claver
Dear Saint of our modern times, you were permeated with compassion for the oppressed, for human beings sold as slaves and treated as expendable beasts. While alleviating their natural ills, you also took away their spiritual ills, and taught them the surpassing knowledge of Christ. Inspire many of our contemporaries to become self-sacrificing missionaries like you. Amen.
– Source: Patron Saint Index
1 Corinthians 4:6-15
Take Apollos and myself as an example and remember the maxim, “Keep to what is written”, it is not for you, so full of your own importance, to go taking sides for one man against another. In any case, brother, has anybody given you some special right? What do you have that was not given to you? And if it was given, how can you boast as though it were not? Is it that you have everything that you want – that you are rich already, in possession of your kingdom, with us left outside? Indeed I wish you were really kings, and we could be kings with you! But instead, it seems to me, God has put us apostles at the end of his parade, with the men sentenced to death; it is true – we have bee put on show in front of the whole universe, angels as well as men. Here we are, fools for the sake of Christ, while you are the learned men in Christ; we have no power, but you are influential; you are celebrities, we are nobodies. To this day, we go without food and drink and clothes; we are beaten and have no homes; we work for our living with our own hands. When we are cursed, we answer with a blessing; when we are hounded, we put up with it; we are insulted and we answer politely. We are treated as the offal of the world, still to this day, the scum of the earth.
I am saying all this not just to make you ashamed but to bring you, as my dearest children, to your senses. You might have thousands of guardians in Christ but no more than one father and it was I who begot you in Christ Jesus by preaching the Good News.
One sabbath Jesus happened to be taking a walk through the cornfields, and his disciples were picking eats of corn, rubbing them in their hands and eating them. Some of the Pharisees said, “Why are you doing something that is forbidden on the sabbath day?” Jesus answered them, “So you have not read what David did when he and his followers were hungry – how he went into the House of God, took the loaves of offering and ate them and gave them to his followers, loaves which only the priests are allowed to eat?” And he said to them, “The Son of Man is master of the sabbath.”
What does this line mean? “The Son of Man is master of the sabbath”? We read in another part that Jesus says, “The sabbath is made for man, not man for the sabbath.” What is it he’s trying to teach us?
A few weeks ago, I came across an interesting lady who had given up her high-paying job to serve the “poorest of the poor” in Singapore. Our conversation which lasted over an hour, was constantly interrupted by phone calls, and I sat there politely, listening in on some of those conversations. Sometimes, other interruptions came from those poorest of the poor themselves in person, and this lady always went to tend to them first. Often, she had to choose between attending to them or to other seemingly more important issues, such as clients and the media, and she taught her staff to always attend to the poor first.
“They are the reason we are doing this,” she explained to me. “Without them, we would not be doing this.” But obviously without the clients and the media, they would still be doing it. It was clear to her which was more important.
That lesson was one of the many that I learned from my several meetings with her. It impressed on me the same lesson that I see Jesus teaching us today in the gospels – that the purpose of rules of a community are made for the good of people who live in that community. When you place the rules above the people, then you’ve got your priorities upside down.
Sometimes, we read or hear of complaints that teenage girls should dress more appropriately and respectfully in church. Some would go so far as to say that if they did not dress more appropriately, they should be turned away from the church. Applying today’s lesson in this case, we ask: are the rules made for the people or the people made for the rules? Which is more important – the rule or the person?
Another example will be the research conducted in embryonic stem cell research. This research takes human embryos and extracts the stem cells (cells which can grow into any other type of cell) and uses them to save other lives. However, the embryo in which the cells were taken from, dies. In other words, you want to save human lives, but in so doing, you have to kill other humans to do it.
Catholics are against this form of research, because it clearly does not place value on human life. Humans are not the end of the research, for it involves taking the lives of other humans to save others. Who are we to decide which life is better to save? We ask: is science made for humans, or humans for science?
Or take another example that a friend related to me. At a major church event recently, an old, half-blind man lost his family in the crowd. A helpful soul brought him to a warden who was busy directly people into the compound. The warden responded with irritation in his voice: come see me later… later being two hours later. We ask ourselves: is order made for humans or humans made for order?
These have just been a few examples in our lives today, but there are many more in our own lives that involve us making decisions. Jesus teaches us today: humans must be the end of what we do. Anything else will not be love of neighbour.
Prayer: We pray for all people regardless of job or ministry, to always place humans as the end of what we do.
Give Thanks to the Lord for: People who have gotten their priorities right.
Sun, 10 Sep – Isaiah 35:4-7a; James 2:1-5; Mark 7:31-37; 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
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Disclaimer: The reflections expressed in this e-mail are the writer’s own. They may not necessarily reflect the teachings of the Catholic Church. Nonetheless we should all be able to learn something from it.