Hosea 6:1–6; Psalm 51:3–4, 18–19, 20–21ab; Luke 18:9–14>
Picture the simple Dominican brother Martin de Porres moving humbly among the sick and poor of Lima, Peru, in the seventeenth century. His work was long and arduous as he cared for orphans, slaves, and poor children. His hours of prayer and penance strengthened this ministry. At first only a lay helper in this community, thinking himself unworthy to be a vowed religious, Martin was eventually invited into full membership.
His life of prayer and witness moved the Dominican community to receive him as a lay brother. Like the tax collector in today’s Gospel, Martin himself was someone whom society rejected. As the illegitimate son of a Spanish nobleman and Panamanian woman of color, he was victimized by poverty and social stigma. And yet he ministered to all, regardless of social standing, race, or color. As a man of mixed race, he stood out as a witness to gospel love.
In our American society, which is scarred by what one historian calls the “original sin” of slavery, racism is a real and insidious force. We tiptoe around its presence in our lives and in our institutions, and yet we need not fear to face it with the liberating power of the gospel.
A saint like Martin de Porres can teach us much, as we make a resolution to overcome all prejudice and racism and incorporate this into our lenten prayer.
Spend some time doing an honest examination of how your life might be touched by racism—whether in yourself or in others.
God of love, draw us back to you.
Rain down your love on our barren hearts and bring them to life.