Daily Reflection
September 9th, 1999
Andy Alexander, S.J.
University Ministry and the Collaborative Ministry Office

       The Memorial of Blessed Peter Claver, S.J.
            Click here to read about Peter Claver, S.J.

Colossians 3:12-17
Luke 6:27-38
To you who hear me, I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you; bless those who curse you and pray for those who maltreat you. When someone slaps you on one cheek, turn and give the other; when someone takes your coat, let go of  your shirt as well. Give to all who beg from you. When someone takes what is yours, do not demand it back. Do to others what you would have them do to you. ...
Be compassionate, as your Father is compassionate. ...
Give, and it shall be given to you. Good  measure pressed down, shaken together, running over, will they pour into the fold of your garment. For the measure you measure with will be measured back to you.

It is well worth reading these two readings carefully today.  And, it is an invitation to read the brief account of Peter Claver's life, to celebrate it with us Jesuits who so revere his living of these readings.  (The beauty of the web is that it's easy to click on the links above, read them, and return right here.)

Peter Claver, S.J. led an absolutely committed life.  For many of us who live in cultures still wounded by the unspeakable evil of the slave trade, Peter was there at the beginning, giving his life for these slaves, whom others regarded as property.  And he did it in the midst of conditions that are simply unimaginable to us.  Peter made himself a servant for the poorest victims of injustice, without holding anything back.

The most powerful part of this story is that Peter's human inspiration for his life of heroic service was a simple, unassuming Jesuit brother, Alphonsus Rodriguez, S.J.  (Click here to read about Alphonsus.)  Brother Alphonsus had known great suffering in his life, losing his wife and children and then his business.  Out of his brokenness and humiliation, God fashioned a humble, holy instrument.  Alphonsus spent the second half of his life, as a humble receptionist at the front door of a Jesuit college.  He "accomplished" very little, as we often count accomplishments.  But, oh, how his life made a difference to Peter Claver, and to those precious human beings trapped in the cargo holds of Cartegena, Colombia.

These stories remind me of a deep lesson.  The simple, ordinary, day-to-day fidelity of Alphonsus inspired the extraordinary and heroic service of Peter.  What difference might my very ordinary day-to-day fidelity make, as an inspiration, a witness to others?

These two Jesuits help me read these readings at a deeper level in my heart.  When I am touched by the losses and "humbling" that went on in the heart of Alphonsus, I imagine the "suffering-with" compassion he must have experienced from God.  When my heart is moved to tears at vivid images of Peter caring for those slaves, I'm not tempted in the least to do a "rational" debate in my head about "the prudence" of loving my enemies.  Loving (even enemies), suffering-with (even the "takers" who curse and slap me), serving the poor (whether in simple fidelity or heroic self-surrender) all seem so much more attractive.  Jesus' promise consoles and fans into a flame these desires in me to be de-selfished, in love.

Paul's soaring words to the Colossians - just ten sentences packed with eloquence and beauty - can be our help and support today.  Whatever we do today, we can dedicate ourselves to thankfulness.  As we realize how we have been loved, forgiven, suffered-with, we are inspired to let the same love, forgiveness and suffering-with flow from our hearts.  May we be faithful to God's own hospitality and mercy today - at our receptionist desks, caring for those who are "held captive" in any way.

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