Daily Reflection
September 9th, 2008

Andy Alexander, S.J.

University Ministry and the Collaborative Ministry Office
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Peter Claver, S.J. is one of the great Jesuit saints. When he was in college studies as a Jesuit, he was deeply influenced by another future Jesuit saint, the brother Alphonsus Rodriguez. Alphonsus had the lowly job of being the receptionist at the college. Peter was inspired by Alphonsus. Their conversations about service and humility, ultimately about imitating our Lord, led Peter to offer himself for the missions that were being established in South America. The Jesuits saw that the development of new colonies in the new world required clergy and perhaps schools. When Peter arrived at the coast of Colombia, in 1610, he was overwhelmed, not by the needs of the new colonists, but by the enormous human injustice and tragedy of the slave trade. Since the native peoples had so quickly died off from the diseases brought from the old world, the colonists needed workers for their new plantations and for the gold mines. Thousands of slaves from the west coast of Africa were captured like animals and shipped to the new world in the cargo holds of huge ships. Many died along the way while others arrived very sick. Peter devoted 40 years of his life to caring for these slaves. Because there were so many languages and dialects among the new arrivals, Peter trained lay helpers to learn the languages and to join him in comforting these slaves and to be catechists for them. Peter was, of course, severely criticized by the colonists for his zeal. He was even condemned for offering the sacraments to these people. His care for these least and lowest must have pricked the consciences of the slave owners. Through it all, Peter relied on his relationship with the Lord for strength. When Peter was canonized by Pope Leo XIII in 1888, Alphonsus Rodriguez, his beloved spiritual advisor, was canonized at the same time.

Today's gospel is the call of the twelve apostles. I'm sure Alphonsus and Peter read this story many times. Peter's story and the gospel today are an invitation for us all to hear our Lord's call to us. Ultimately, he calls each of us to follow him. Some of us will follow our Lord by doing the simple every day work that Alphonsus did. In our daily family relationships and in our everyday jobs, we can be faithful, loving and inspiring to others. Some of us are doing heroic service in real sacrifices that involve dying to ourselves - perhaps not in missionary lands - but, in caring for our children or our parents, in loving our spouse or others entrusted to our care. For some of us, we have the opportunity, by our position and our influence, to make a difference in this world. We can follow our Lord in caring for the least and the lowest by being their advocates, their companions and helpers. We can all ask for the grace today to be placed with Jesus' own care for those with and for whom we are called to serve today.

Dear Lord, as you inspire us today by the example of your Apostles and of Alphonsus and Peter, we ask you for courage to respond to your call this day. Where ever you send us today, open our hearts to love as you have loved us. Let us know the joy of comforting someone in need today.

And, Lord, on the memorial of St. Peter Claver, S.J., we hold up to you all those who have suffered the terrible injustice of slavery, down through history. As we ask you to forgive this scandalous scar on our cultures, we ask you to heal its results. Heal the remaining inequities and the deep racism that abides in us. Dedicate your people to a special care for those on the margins of our societies today, especially forced migrants and refugees.

We ask all this in your name, trusting the power of your love and your call for each of us today.

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