The Best Exegetes

(October 11, 2009)

Bottom line: St. Rose and St. Martin exegete today's Gospel. They show us that is possible for weak human beings to sell all, give to the poor and to come, follow Jesus.

In his monumental work Fire Within Fr. Thomas Dubay writes, "Saints are the best exegetes we have of Scripture." They not only studied and meditated on the Word of God they lived it intensely and heroically. They show that Christ's teaching is not just a lofty ideal, but a possibility for flesh and blood human beings.

To illustrate how saints reveal the meaning of Scripture, Fr. Dubay examines the lives and writings of St. Theresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross. I also saw that principle at work these past weeks in the lives of two Peruvian saints: St. Rose of Lima and St. Martin de Porres. I am leading a ten-person pilgrimage/mission trip to Peru. On our first day in Lima we visited the tombs of St. Rose and St. Martin. They illustrate Jesus' words, "Go sell what you have and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me."

Let me begin with St. Rose. Born into a noble family, she offered Jesus all she possessed: her beauty, her status, her comfort, her time, her sleep, even her health. It would be easy to write her off as "extreme," except for one thing. She had her feet firmly planted on the earth. As Fr. Dubay notes:

"There are some people whose grasp of reality is so tenuous or whose imagination is so overactive that when they speak of transcendent experiences, we are not likely to take them seriously. But when these experiences are narrated by intelligent, well-balanced, realistic individuals who know human nature and its illusions from the inside out, we have no sensible choice but to examine the evidence with sober care and an open mind."

St. Rose clearly belongs in the second category. While never compromising her vision - everything for Jesus - she showed herself practical in her relationships with others and her assistance to the poor.

St. Martin de Porres illustrates a different aspect of giving up all to follow Jesus. He did not possess wealth or noble upbringing, but had received extraordinary gifts of wit and insight, perhaps what we today would call "street smart." But beyond that he applied himself to learn practical skills in healing and service. He and his mother (a freed slave who had migrated from Panama to Peru) struggled against poverty. A famous story tells about how she gave young Martin her last coins to buy some bread. On the way he encountered a blind beggar. The boy wound up giving everything to beggar, who in turn gave this prophecy: "Some day you will be the greatest man in our Peru."

Martin acheived greatness by giving all to possess the one pearl of true value - the Kingdom, the rule, of God. Thoughout Peru and the entire world you can see his image: a black man with a kindly countenance, wearing the simple Dominican habit. He holds a broom, indicating his preference for the humblest jobs. At his feet lies a bowl at which drink a dog, a cat and a mouse. The presence of St. Martin made friends out of traditional enemies, even in the animal world.

St. Rose and St. Martin exegete today's Gospel. They show us that is possible for weak human beings to sell all, give to the poor and to come, follow Jesus. In them we see what Jesus means by having "treasure in heaven." Their lives show us that Jesus' teaching is not just a beautiful ideal, but a possibility for flesh and blood human beings - like you and me. Now is the day to sell all and to follow Jesus.


General Intercessions for the Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B (from Priests for Life)

Spanish Version (viene...)

From Archives (Homilies for 28th Sunday, Year B):

2006: Prudence
2003: You Know the Commandments
2000: What Must I Do to Have Everlasting Life?

Other Homilies

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C>Cycle C

Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)

St. Mary of the Valley Album

(updated September 27, 2009)

Pictures from Peru

(October 2009)

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