Friday, November 11, 2016

Memorial of Saint Martin of Tours, bishop

(II John 4-9; Luke 17:26-37)

It used to be said that when someone wanted to have everything, she wanted “to eat her cake and have it too.”  One can either eat the cake now or later, but cannot do both.  The rule applies to the spiritual life as well.  One can follow Christ by letting go of undue concern for self or can seek her own comfort.  The readings today admonish us to choose Christ.

The first reading is taken from the short Second Letter of John.  The writer, a presbyter or “elder brother” (certainly a spiritual guide if nothing else) tells his patron not to follow a new teaching.  It is likely that the teaching concerns whether Jesus’ having flesh has importance to human salvation.  If not, one might do whatever he wishes with his body.  Such an idea contradicts Christian understanding of Jesus Christ as well as Christian morality.  In the gospel Jesus urges his disciples not to be overly concerned with bodily needs.  He says that the Son of Man is coming to give them the fullness of life.

St. Martin of Tours, whom we celebrate today, had a proper appreciation of the body.  The story of his sharing his cloak with a beggar indicates a readiness to deny luxuriant comfort so that the poor person might have some protection.  Thus, he acknowledged needs of the body but realized that the spiritual need to care for the other has at least equal priority.