Thursday, November 3, 2011

Memorial of Saint Martin de Porres, religious

(Romans 14:7-12; Luke 15:1-10)

St. Martin de Porres, a half-Black Peruvian, at first thought of himself as unworthy of religious life. When the Dominican friars of Lima, who accepted him in their convent as a servant, wanted him to join their ranks, he was resistant. Was it the color of his skin that made him consider himself as unfit? Or perhaps it was the awareness of himself as a sinner? In either case his humility seems exaggerated today. It may be that Martin eventually reappraised his own self-worth to realize that although he was not perfect, he too was redeemed by Christ.

In today’s gospel Jesus demonstrates that no one is outside the range of God’s salvific action. Tax collectors, at least in Jesus’ day, are notoriously greedy. “Sinners,” perhaps Luke’s euphemism for prostitutes, are likewise given to depravity. But Jesus expresses loving care for these unsavory types by the dual parables of the shepherd and the housekeeper. No one should consider herself or himself as so lost that God would not go out of His way to rectify her or his life.

Christian holiness starts from the realization of oneself as a sinner. Everyone should recognize that deep down he or she is inordinately self-centered and avaricious. From this consciousness we hear Jesus’ call to conversion and look to him as both model and impetus for overcoming the inclinations to sin. Then we legitimately see ourselves as works of a new creation with full membership in the company of saints.