“We must speak to them with our hands by giving, before we try to speak to them with our lips.” ~ Peter Claver
Our society is rife with division. There is a huge gap between those who have power and those who are powerless. There is another gap between those who have a lot of money and those who barely eke out a living. In addition to that, there is a true problem with cultural and racial disparity. It has poured over into all sorts of protests and demonstrations, some peaceful and some violent.
Oftentimes, the peaceful protesters have an element of violent protesters mixed in with them. When violence breaks out, the whole message of the peaceful protesters is lost amidst the anger toward the violence that has taken place. People become angry with one another, labeling and judging one another. Add to that a layer of politics and the mix becomes incendiary.
Peter Claver moved to the New World from Spain, intending to be a missionary. He arrived in Cartagena, was ordained there, and never left. Cartagena was the place where slaves arrived to the New World to be shipped to owners in several countries. Even though the practice of slave-trading was condemned by Pope Paul III and later labeled “supreme villainy” by Pope Pius IX, it continued to flourish.
Peter Claver proclaimed himself “the slave of the Negroes forever.” He would meet the slave ships as they came into port. Unlike other missionaries who met ships in the past — and in his own time — and preached to the slaves, encouraging them to accept the salvation that comes from Christ, Claver went into the ships with water and supplies. He bandaged wounds and provided food and water, bandages, rum, and lemons (to treat scurvy) to the slaves. He lived today’s quote each day of his life.
The slaves, for their part, saw Jesus in Claver’s ministry. In his forty years of working among the slaves, Peter Claver instructed and baptized over 300,000 slaves. It wasn’t just the slaves who saw Jesus in Peter Claver, though. Claver was inspired to go out to the population, preaching to them about social justice, love, and mercy. He would forgo staying in the homes of plantation owners when he was preaching and lived, instead, in slave quarters.
Claver reminds us that we are called by Jesus Christ to do more than proclaim the Good News. We must embody the Good News. If we talk about peace and social justice but do not help the downtrodden and marginalized, we are only lukewarm Christians at best.
A change in our world can begin with each of us. There are still the marginalized in our midst who are waiting for more than words to greet their ears. They need material goods as well. If you can provide for them, God would be very pleased.
FAITH ACTION: Don’t just talk about the faith today. Live the faith.