Monday, September 9, 2013

Memorial of St. Peter Claver, priest

(Colossians 1:24-2:3; Luke 6:6-11)

St. Peter Claver lived most of his life in Cartagena, Columbia, where he took care of the slaves recently imported from Africa.  Practicing his medical skills on the Africans, he exhausted himself trying to meet their needs.  Biographers mention that he died almost isolated from his Jesuit brothers, so radical was his dedication to the slaves.  His story makes an ample relief for the passage from the Letter to the Colossians.

The words read today might perk up a half- deaf person’s attention.  “In my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his Body, which is the Church,…”  Is the author claiming that there is something deficient about Christ’s passion and death that the Church needs additional sacrifice?  Hardly! What Paul, the presumed author although many scholars today express reservations, means is that the message of Christ’s redemption must be carried to the world by his preaching which includes suffering as a witness to its truth. 

Of course, the need to “fill up what is lacking in the affliction of Christ…” is not limited to Paul or to early Christianity.  Rather it is renewed in every era, in every society.  We too have to suffer patiently so that others may know of Christ’s salvation of the world.  We too carry his message to the world by taking pains to care for others.