3 November, Wednesday — Emptying ourselves

Nov 3 – Memorial for St. Martin de Porres, religious

St. Martin (1579-1639) was the illegitimate son of a Spanish nobleman, Juan, and a young freed black slave, Anna Velasquez. He grew up in poverty and spent part of his youth with a surgeon-barber from whom he learned some medicine and care of the sick.

At the age of 11, he became a servant in the Holy Rosary Dominican priory in Lima, Peru. He was promoted to almoner and begged more than $2,000 a week from the rich to support the poor and sick in Lima. He was placed in charge of the Dominican’s infirmary, and was known for his tender care of the sick and for his spectacular cures. His superiors dropped the stipulation that “no black person may be received to the holy habit or profession of our order” and Martin took vows as a Dominican brother in 1603.

He established an orphanage and children’s hospital for the poor children of the slums. He set up a shelter for the stray cats and dogs and nursed them back to health. He lived in self-imposed austerity, never eating meat, fasting continuously, and spent much time in prayer and meditation with a great devotion to the Holy Eucharist. He was a friend of St. John de Massias.

He was venerated from the day of his death. Many miraculous cures, including raising the dead, have been attributed to Brother Martin, the first black saint from the Americas.

  • Patron Saint Index

Rm 13:8-10
Lk 14:25-33

“..none of you can be my disciple unless he gives up all his possessions.”

Singapore underwent a ‘circuit breaker’ last year, which forced all the citizens to stay at home. The newspapers reported that the refuse collectors struggled during this period, to handle the surge in rubbish being cleared by residents who decided to find time to clear the things in their rooms which were not needed to convert their living spaces into a working space. I was clearing my wardrobe of clothes and realised that there were some shirts which I had not even worn before. It was amazing to see how much was accumulated in such a short period of time. As I continued to clear my wardrobe, I felt that this was analogous to my spiritual life.

There is a lot of baggage which I have carried in my journey with Jesus that I have not surrendered to Him. The hurts and injustices which I have suffered, my own pre-occupations with things which are not important, and the desire to engage in uncharitable conversations with others, all have distracted me from focusing on Jesus.

What then is the solution to help us let go of all these hurts? St Paul instructs us in the first reading that “Love is the only thing that cannot hurt your neighbour.” We need to extend love to the people around us by being charitable towards them. Let us accept the people around for who they are, and not be quick to judge.

St Martin de Porres, whose memorial we celebrate today, shows us the way. There was an epidemic in Lima, Peru and St Martin demonstrated unfailing love by caring for the sick by transporting them to the convent where his fellow friars were staying. The superior ordered St Martin to discontinue with his work, for fear of the contagion spreading from the sick to the friars. One day, St Martin brought a wounded man back to the convent to be cared for. St Martin’s superior reprimanded him for his disobedience. To this, St Martin’s reply was, “Forgive my error, and please instruct me, for I did not know that the precept of obedience took precedence over that of charity.”

To build bonds of love which St Paul has asked us to do, maybe we could start with loving ourselves. We begin first by seeking God’s forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, where we surrender to God all the struggles which we face. After that, we could take time to forgive ourselves and engage in self-love. The child of God strives for perfection not because perfection is the goal but because in the process, he discovers what truly matters to him. As we continue to do so, we discover that it becomes easier to discard both the material possessions and the emotional hurts we have because they are replaced by God’s love within us.

I pray that you allow God the Holy Spirit to enter into your life, and surrender to Him the struggles which you face.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the people who show us how to love.

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