Today’s gospel reading urges us to extend ourselves, to go beyond what is easy and convenient. We are called to reach out to those who can’t repay us, to give without counting the cost, to love those outside our own family and circle of friends. This was a call that Saint Peter Claver took very seriously. He was ordained in 1615 in what is now Colombia. During that time, the slave trade was vigorous, and the port of Cartagena was a central entry point for African slaves. Ten thousand slaves would pour into Colombia through Cartagena every year under extremely foul conditions. Around a third of them would die in transit.
Whenever a ship would enter the port, Peter Claver would swing into action. After the slaves were herded out of the ship, Claver plunged in among them with medicine, food, and other supplies. With the help of interpreters he gave basic instructions and assured his brothers and sisters of their human dignity and God’s saving love. During the 40 years of his ministry, Claver instructed and baptized an estimated 300,000 slaves.
He ministered in the Colombian missions until his death, vowing to be “the slave of the blacks forever.” He died in 1654 and was given a public and pompous funeral by the city magistrates, even though they had previously expressed their displeasure for his ministry to the black outcasts. He was canonized in 1888 and Pope Leo XIII declared him to be the worldwide patron of missionaries to the black peoples.
The gospel tells us today “For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.” With the help of St. Peter Claver’s intercession, let us pray that the measure we use will be one of generosity and not one of judgment.