I read the first reading through a couple of times in a prayerful
state, quietly waiting for some kind of idea to come to me. It spoke
of the responsibility of the older folks to teach the younger ones
how to live. It all seemed well and good, but it didn’t move
me much, perhaps because I had heard many of these admonitions as
far back as I can remember.
Then a curious thing happened. I looked at the chapter and verses,
and I noticed that today’s first reading skips two verses.
It starts in Chapter 2 from verse 1 to 8, and then ends from 11
to 14. “What is in the skipped verses?” I wondered.
I looked them up:
“Slaves are to be under the control of their masters in all
respects, giving them satisfaction, not talking back to them or
stealing from them, but exhibiting complete good faith, so as to
adorn the doctrine of God our savior in every way.” Ti 2:9-10.
Now I certainly wouldn’t pretend to know the minds and hearts
of the good people who decided which passages were to be chosen
for each day. But I do know that sometimes God speaks to us not
through what is present, but through what has been overlooked or
So the conduct of slaves in the Pauline era, certainly a controversial
topic for us today, becomes a very appropriate topic when we look
into our memorialized saint, Martin of Tours.
There are a lot of legends out there about St. Martin, many of which
were generated during medieval times, where the stories of the great
monk and bishop were often recounted.
However, there is one constant thread that runs through all of these
legends: St. Martin of Tours was the consummate servant. Though
a bishop, he lived his life in the visible service of others –
like a slave. Legend has it that his earliest biographer, Sulpicius
Severus, was stunned when Martin, a bishop at the time, personally
washed his hands and feet. And earlier, when Martin was in the military,
he was assigned a personal servant. But legend tells us that he
“insisted on switching roles with his servant, cleaning the
servant’s boots instead of the other way around!” (This
information was found and quoted from an interesting Website and
you can read it here
We often see accounts of the saints that are similar; their humility
moves them to become – and remain until death -- humble servants
of the Church and of their fellow men and women.
So it is no surprise, then, that the Gospel reading should remind
us that we are all servants, and our servitude does not stop at
a few good deeds. St. Martin of Tours, by his shining example, reminds
us that no matter how revered he happened to be, he was still an
“unprofitable servant” that had only done what he was
obliged to do.
Furthermore, the somewhat unsavory image of the slave, omitted from
today’s first reading, could perhaps inspire us to exhibit
“complete good faith” in the Lord our master, “so
as to adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every way.”
Though as a notion it is somewhat outdated, are we comfortable with
thinking of our relationship with the Lord as that of slave-master?
If not, what is it about this relationship that deters us from this?
Is He not worthy of all our trust, much as a slave would place all
of his or her trust in a master?
Or are we haughty and arrogant enough to believe that we should
be a servant to no one?