Feast of St. Martin of Tours
Today’s Gospel and the Feast of St. Martin of Tours fit well together. St. Martin’s life is a colorful one. He was a soldier who refused military duty, and a hermit who became a bishop. But he is remembered most for a compassionate gesture. Seeing a beggar shivering in the cold of a day, Martin tore his cloak and gave half to the beggar. That night Martin dreamed he had shared his cloak with Jesus. In the beggar, he saw Jesus.
In the Gospel, Jesus talks about how those around him are not seeing who is in their midst. The Pharisees wanted to know from Jesus when the Kingdom of God would come. They expected that the kingdom would resemble Jerusalem and Israel in their former glory under David’s reign.
This is why Jesus responds as he does. He tells them the coming of the Kingdom cannot be observed. The Greek word for observe, ‘paratereseos,’ literally means a doctor’s bedside watching. In other words, the kingdom cannot to be observed, like a doctor at bedside carefully watching a patient. The kingdom is not a place, nor will it have a triumphal military messiah.
Rather, Jesus tells the Pharisees, the Kingdom of God is among you. It is Jesus, right in front of them, the suffering servant messiah. But they don’t recognize him.
These words are for us too. Our culture keeps fixated watch, like a bedside doctor, on those men and women it deems important – the powerful, the successful, the rich and beautiful. A beggar can never qualify. And yet, shivering before us, among us, is the Kingdom of God. Do we recognize him?
Deacon Manuel Valencia is on the staff at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.