1Corinthians 8:1b-7, 11-13
It is exactly 400 years since Peter Claver, SJ arrived at his mission assignment in Cartagena, Columbia in 1610. His discernment to minister in the New World was helped by the urging of Alphonso Rodriquez, a Jesuit lay brother, who would be canonized on the same day as Peter, in 1888. Cartagena was a slave trade center. Peter would meet the boats and care for the ill, and disoriented, he would follow them to the salve pens with food and medicines, and when possible, visit the mines or farms where they toiled. He ministered for 44 years, then disappears from public view the last few years of his life due to illness. But in death his good deeds were remembered and his funeral became a state funeral. His goodness has been remembered ever since.
Peter is an icon of today’s gospel. Jesus has given us the Beatitudes, now he addresses his followers about how to love. Love your enemies and those who hate, bless those who curse and pray for those who look down upon you. Followers are called to go beyond the norm. Peter Claver desired to do this. Perhaps it was the Latin word, ‘magis’ (more) familiar to the Jesuits that inspired Peter, because he strove to do ‘more’ for the Glory of God.
Luke’s teaching on love is drawn from the love of God that we see in the Covenant. God first loves us; this love we do not earn, it is freely given, it is Gift. It is a love that we see revealed in many ways, and so a love revelatory of the mystery of God’s love for us. God loves the unjust and the wicked. This is the love we are given, the gift we are called to give to others. When we do this we will be known as children of the Most High, daughters and sons who exercise their inheritance of love in daily life.
"Be compassionate as your heavenly Father is compassionate." Peter when a young priest was heard to say that he would be "a slave of the Negroes for ever." He taught the slaves to pray, "Jesus Christ, Son of God, you will be my father and my mother and all my good. I love you much. I am sorry for having sinned against you. Lord, I love you much, much, much". So the man who lived the "more" as a Jesuit, taught the poorest whose bodies were taken from them in this life to say, "Lord, I love you much, much, much."
The gospel ends today: by the measure you use to measure you will be measured in return. Peter you gave more and taught others to love much. What a magnificent way you show us to go against the norms that hold us back from true freedom. And it was ‘true freedom’ that was the gift given you by God through your work with those who had no freedom!
Fr. William Murphy, CP is pastor of St. Joseph’s Monastery parish in Baltimore, MD.