It should come as no surprise that today is a special day for me. It is the feast of my patron, St. Martin de Porres. In the Dominican calendar, this is indeed celebrated as a feast. I chose St. Martin de Porres as my patron because he represents what I all to often to not. His lived example is summed up in the words of today’s gospel. Hear again the advice of Jesus:
When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or sisters or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment. Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.
I need this constant reminder not to be selfish. I do not always want to be around the poor, the crippled, the lame or the blind, let alone invite them to my home. But I know I should. I know that I have been given much, and much is required of me. I know that when I fail to invite the poor, crippled, lame or blind, I fail to serve Jesus himself.
But my sin is two-fold. It is not just that I fail to serve Jesus in the poor, crippled, blind and lame, I also fail to recognize the beauty and dignity that they possess. I tarnish my own dignity by failing to acknowledge theirs. I am less than I can be because somehow I erroneously believe I am so much more than the poor Jesus I scorn.
St. Martin de Porres reminds me that the gospel calls us to think more like the TV show Cheers. Remember, it is where everyone knows your name. I work hard to learn the names of the homeless I pass each time I enter the Dane County Jail for Mass. When I was walking downtown this summer I encountered a man who asked me if I could give him money for food. I said, “Where is the nearest market?” He knew. We walked there together, in conversation, where told him to buy lunch, which was a small sandwich and a bottle of water. I learned that more than anything else, this man shattered my stereotypes. He was actively working and looking for more work as a carpenter and construction worker.
This is the love that Paul tells us to have in the first reading. “Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but also everyone for those of others.” That is what St. Martin de Porres did. And with his intercession, it is what I hope to do too.