Feast of Saint Peter Claver
1 Corinthians 6:1-11
God’s Calling, Our Vocations
Our gospel today is the prelude to Luke’s version of the Beatitudes. There is a large crowd of disciples and a multitude of the people around Jesus. He cures, expels demons and then will begin to teach.
Our prayer might tend in the direction of vocations today. Jesus calls the Apostles. They are unformed and taken from the group of disciples who are with him. They receive no details of the work they will do. Later Jesus will send them forth to share in his ministry, and after his death, in the Acts of the Apostles, we will see them picking up the prophetic mantel of Jesus.
Today we also celebrate St. Peter Claver. A Jesuit whose vocation to go to the missions was awakened by another Jesuit saint, Alphonso Rodríguez. Peter would work for forty years among slaves, meeting their ships as they arrived in Cartagena, Columbia in the 1600’s. He described his vocation as ‘the slave of the slaves’. He did what he could in giving human comfort to the frightened and sick who would be sent to plantations or mines. He would do what he could for them in the new harsh world in which they found themselves. It would seem Peter must have live with great frustration unable to right the wrongs inflicted upon the unfortunate slaves. He was incapacitated and seemingly forgotten the last five years of his life due to illness, yet strangely at his death, Cartagena erupted in celebration for his goodness and his work of charity. How much of a difference did Peter make in the hearts of slave owners during his life and after his death?
There is also before us the vocation of teacher. Power goes forth from Jesus, and the stage is now set for him to teach. Our schools are open, the new school year has begun. I offered a prayer when the teachers in our school came their first day. There were four new teachers and I could feel their nervousness. Everything was new. I imagined the teachers being dropped off by their moms and being gently pushed into the school and being told to go do their work! We all teach, but those who have that vocation with a capital ‘V’, have an awesome gift. Imparting important knowledge, yes; sowing seeds they will not see blossom, yes; and entering into dialogue where they become as vulnerable as the students they teach in their sharing.
How impossible to explain the vocation of an Apostle, a Peter Claver or a teacher. The Apostles would be the first to say they were involved in a mystery beyond their choosing. How did Peter Claver bring joy to the sorrowful and go to bed with hope each night? Do teachers their God-given gift of wanting to fill others with the gifts they have to offer in many diverse ways?
Maybe none of these vocations are ones you feel that you have. But what are yours? Where is your calling, the giving that makes you feel more full, the hard work that gives you energy? We can say that Jesus was ‘sent’ and was ‘called’, that he had a Divine Vocation. Today give thought to your vocations, their calling and sending, and how with your gifts God calls you, and sends you to bear his love through them to others.
Fr. William Murphy, CP is the pastor of Immaculate Conception parish in Jamaica, New York.