Today the Catholic Church celebrates Jesuit St. Peter Claver who worked in South America, ministering to those caught in the slave trade. He worked on behalf of the slaves, begging that they might be treated well.
The readings today are a good match for this man. Colossians 3 lists the pitfalls in life–those characteristics that can cause us to sin–impurity, evil desire and greed were at the root of the slave trade. The Beatitudes from Luke are the Woe to you version that slave traders and owners might have been nervous to hear. Blessed were those slaves who were poor, hungry and weeping. For those who seek God, we can be misled, such as those Christians who caught, traded and mistreated slaves. We may think that we are seeking God but we have missed the Holy One in our own midst. In fact, Christ weeps as he is beaten, chained, and worked to death.
St. Peter Claver says: Seek God in all things, and we shall find God by our side. We can seek God in all things, and still be horribly blind to the Truth. We must learn how to discern whose voice to listen to and what decisions must be made. For this we must also know our sin and be prepared to guard against it in our decision-making process.
I will not forget the visit to the Slave Museum in South Africa which highlighted details of the slave trade. The experience was visceral and heart-wrenching. Christians thought they were doing the right thing but they were not seeking God in these slaves and that allowed them to treat these men and women cruelly. God was not on their side but howled in sorrow with how these beloved creatures were stolen and transplanted to a world an ocean away. Thank God for men and women like St. Peter Claver who tried to ease their pain and suffering. May we seek with eyes like these.
Have you ever thought God was on your side but later realized it was not God’s voice who was directing you?
Who do you know that is fighting against the odds to bring about justice in a particular area? Can you help?
is a dangerous presumption
because it means God-is-not-on-their-side
Why do we do this to you, Just One?
Help us to see with your eyes
and to sow seeds of compassion
instead of arrogance.