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Lost and Found


It is repulsive to imagine what it was like to be an African man or woman crammed into the hold of a dirty, smelly slave ship en route to being sold in the marketplace to work on a plantation in Cartagena in the 1600s. Hungry, sick, abused, and disrespected—those poor souls must have felt totally lost and defeated.
 
Today we observe the memorial of St. Peter Claver, the apostle of Cartagena in what is now Colombia. He was a dedicated Jesuit priest who spent 33 years of his life as the personification of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy in service to these African slaves. He ministered to their bodies and their souls as he brought them food, medicine, Christian instruction, baptism, and encouragement. He found the courage to work right in the slave ship holds. He tirelessly found the words to preach and encourage abolition of the slave trade.
 
Suggested readings for today’s liturgy include verses 6-11 from Isaiah 58 in which the prophet finds better ways to fast: sharing bread with the hungry, housing the homeless, covering the naked, freeing those who are yoked, refraining from judging and speaking evil.

(I)f you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted
then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.(verse 10)

 
We will find light and the Lord’s presence as we do good for others who have experienced loss in one way or another.
 
The gospel reading, Matthew 25:31-40, recounts the familiar story of the last judgment with the Son of Man separating people as a shepherd separates sheep from goats—the sheep representing those who find reward in God’s kingdom because of caring for Jesus in the lost or needy person.
 
Today, as we celebrate St. Peter Claver, we find a good role model. We won’t be going into slave ship holds, but we can find ways to break the hold that prejudice, poverty, pandemic, catastrophe, addiction, or apathy have on people we may encounter. We all know how to pray, and that is always the best way to strengthen us to keep us on the “sheep” side.
 
Even small, regular donations to shelters or drive-through food pantries are so helpful. Providing extra hands to help at food collection centers or extra ears to listen to those people who just need to talk can be our works of mercy. Our attitudes, conversations, and even internet postings can influence others for the good. Offer gentle advice and direction. Suggest some inspirational reading materials or easy-listening Christian music. We can assist others in finding that light in the darkness.
 
Best of all, we can ask St. Peter Claver to pray for us to find some doses of his unending enthusiasm and energy in showing love for our brothers and sisters in Christ. We find joy in the promise that

The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places,
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water,
whose waters never fail. (Isaiah 58:11).

 
Scripture passages are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 
Sharon Krause is a RENEW volunteer whose writing has appeared in several resources for small-group faith sharing. She is a wife, mother, and grandmother residing in Manchester, Connecticut. Over the years, she has served in many parish ministries.

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