Memorial of St. Peter Claver
Becoming Mystics of the Crucified
Today we are in a jury box listening to Paul defend his ministry of preaching. “I have no choice; I’m under compulsion” to do it. Free, he has made himself a slave wanting to be weak so that he can be one with the weak, to share with them the Good News, and win some of them over.
I thought I found myself in a jury box yesterday, where I and a few other Passionists sat judging two professional Catholic writers, a man and a woman, both people of color.
Could these professionals help us in our mission of preaching Christ Crucified? As they shared with us about their work of writing on injustice and the suffering of men women and children of color in our society, I found myself not in the jury box but being judged, judging myself. They knew the prejudice that keeps people on the margin. They voiced the hurt and suffering known to them as people of color. They showed the faces of the unjustly treated through there professional expertise, and invite compassion and conversion. They showed the gift of hope given to us at Baptism.
Paul is a mystic of the Passion who invites us to share an intimate association with Jesus the Crucified by being one with crucified people. We proclaim Christ Crucified whom we meet in our brothers and sisters, and we come to Christ Crucified by becoming one with them in their suffering. Paul speaks of discipline. Could his discipline be this work of making ourselves one with those who suffer the Passion of Christ, thus enabling them to come to know the Crucified Christ through us?
Imagine Peter Claver, whose feast we celebrate today, in light of the the words of Paul.
Peter who has been in Cartagena for 5 years, in 1615 prepares to go on board a slave ship just arrived. He has established a bit of a reputation and will call himself in the days ahead a ‘slave of slaves’. The owners probably thought he did no harm, indeed the little food or drink he could share, some superficial medicines, the gentleness and kindness wouldn’t hurt and maybe would help the slaves when they got to market.
Poor, disorientated people. Exhausted after a long frightening voyage away from what was known into a cruel unknown. Ahead was work in the fields if they were lucky, others would go into the mines. Another part of the Passion of Christ that Peter knew was the slave system and culture. Some Christians would not go into church or into a confessional if a slave was there before them. How to do good in a society that accepted such injustice, such inhumanity? Peter said, “speak with our hands before we speak with our lips”. He served his crucified Lord by being one with his crucified people. This was also his gift of grace to the unjust. In Columbia today is the Day of National Human Rights. His work was not unseen. Besides the slaves others heard the work of his hands.
No blind guide is Peter Claver, SJ. He is a teacher inviting us to become like him. He gives a vision, a mystic’s vision. He pulls the plank of prejudice out of our eyes enabling us to see the Crucified of today, and full of compassion respond to Christ whom we meet in them. I so look forward to working with our two new writers.
Fr. William Murphy, CP is a member of Immaculate Conception Community in Jamaica, New York.