Proclaiming the Gospel by Living the Gospel
St. Peter Claver, Priest and Religious
Colossians 1:24-2:3, Luke 6:6-11
St. Paul tells the church in Colossae: “in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, on behalf of his Body, which is the Church.” He is not claiming that the sufferings of Christ were insufficient for our salvation. No, St. Paul is revealing something else: the love of Jesus and the power of his grace are made even more real when they are evident in those who follow him.
One such person was St. Peter Claver, a Jesuit missionary from Spain who served in the Colombian port city of Cartagena in the 17th century. The Transatlantic slave trade in South America was well-established. An estimated 10,000 people Africa were trafficked into Cartagena every year.
They were survivors. The trip from Africa to the Americas, called the Middle Passage, was harrowing. People were chained and stacked together like firewood, fed little and forced to lie in their own filth. Many got sick and died. Those who survived were sold and treated like cattle.
St. Peter followed the example of compassion that Jesus demonstrated in today’s gospel reading. When a slave ship reached the port, St. Peter immediately entered it to the human needs of the people he found there. He gave them food and drink. He cleaned their bodies and their wounds. He also taught them the basic elements of the Catholic faith and the Christian life. His catechism, however, began with compassion, a recognition of their common humanity, and the corporal works of mercy. They learned about Christ from seeing Christ embodied in Peter Claver. It is said that he baptized some 300,000 people.
St. Peter proclaimed the gospel by living the gospel. Through his intercession, may we follow his example and be people of compassion and justice. –jc