November 4, 2016
“The tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So Jesus addressed this parable to them. “What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it? And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.
“Or what woman having ten coins and losing one would not light a lamp and sweep the house, searching carefully until she finds it? And when she does find it, she calls together her friends and neighbors and days to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found the coin that I lost.’ In just the same way, I tell you, there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Happy Feast of St Martin de Porres!
St Martin was born the illegitimate son of a Spanish “gentleman” and a black freedwoman. This made him one of those people that high-society folk in Lima, his home, would relegate to domestic service and praise for courtesy the more invisible he could make himself. Thanks be to God, he was permitted to take vows as a lay Dominican brother and served the friary in its most menial tasks with great dedication. He was the barber for the friars, he cleaned, he took care of the dogs and cats on the grounds, and he was even chastised by his superior for caring for his quarantined brothers when they had taken ill. When he died, all the hoity toities of Lima came to pay their respects to him, so greatly esteemed was his faith and generosity.
St Martin de Porres was not unlike our patron Pier Giorgio (they were both lay Dominicans, for starters, although PG as a tertiary rather than a consecrated brother). St Martin de Porres acquiesced to his low status in society and performed tasks to suit his place with enormous love, which became the means by which he earned the love and respect of the rich and important. Had Pier Giorgio kept to that which his own pedigree and wealth afforded him, he could have led a comfortable, impressive life among the elite of Italian society. But Pier Giorgio knew that this earthly status meant nothing. He knew the truth of this humanity, which is lowliness. He therefore plunged into the dirty, messy slums of Turin to serve the poor, bringing his wealth along with him only to leave it there, in service of the sick and needy. At his funeral, the rich and important were the expected mourners, but they were shocked to see hoards of townspeople who came to pay their respects to the young man who clung to nothing, not even his own wellbeing, so he could give away everything to the lost sheep of the Kingdom.
These two men are beacons of God’s promise that Aidan wrote about yesterday. Death cannot defeat us or oppress us. Death is, in fact, the means by which we live most fully. By dying to self every day and consenting to the life of Christ in us, we will (believe it!) reach eternal life with the Triune God, His angels, and the Communion of Saints. We must never be like the Pharisees – who think they’re above being saved and rescued and also refused to do any real saving or rescuing – and be like the sinners who sought Jesus out because Jesus will not turn us away. Not ever. Neither St Martin de Porres nor Blessed Pier Giorgio ever put himself above anything or anyone, and they gained in death a place at table with Christ.
Let us rejoice in God’s promise and in the friendship of these two great men of God. Let us ask for their intercession in those moments when our pride makes it hard to be joyful in tedious work. And let us pour out everything we have in building up the Kingdom of God!