Memorial of Saint Peter Claver, Priest

Phase Two of Jesus’ Kingdom-building project has commenced: for it to proceed He needs to enlist the help of builders who are intimately familiar with the Artist and the Plan. He calls twelve men which, after careful consideration and prayer, He calls to a special position of leadership: that of apostle. We read in Ephesians 2:20 that the household of God is “built upon the foundation of the apostles and the prophets,” and even in Revelation the city of God is described as having “twelve courses of stone as its foundation, on which were inscribed the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb,” (21:14). No wonder, then, now that the Master has calculated the costs of building His Kingdom and is ready to lay the foundation (Luke 14:28-30) that He takes His apostles to “a stretch of level ground” to begin their work. What is it that they do to laying themselves down as the foundation of God’s Kingdom?

They healed the sick and cast out demons; they sealed up the cracks within each building block so that as they built the walls, parapets, turrets and towers they would be strong and unassailable. This is the work that St. Peter Claver, SJ undertook as well, for even after 1,600 years the Kingdom was not yet finished, and even in his day there were living stones (1 Peter 2:5) that needed to be prepared and refined before being dressed and added to the walls. In this saint’s case, those yet to be added were the souls of African slaves being brought to Columbia, where he would board the slave ships as soon as they docked and begin ministering as a “slave of the slaves.”

When we, like the apostles and St. Peter Claver, set out to do our part in building the Kingdom, we mustn’t forget that none of us is yet a perfect stone. In spite of this we are all invited to participate in the most glorious creation ever undertaken—even more glorious than the creation of the universe in the beginning—and while the end-goal of this labor is beautiful and intricate and beyond our comprehension it will come about primarily through simple, everyday tasks, as is true of any great effort. Whether it is the million brushstrokes that painted the Sistine Chapel, the push and pull of giant blocks of stone that built the Pyramids, or the billion bandages changed and bowls filled that built up the Body of Christ, even the simplest task can have results that long outlast the one doing them. Let us do them, then, for love of God and neighbor, so our work may last into eternity.

September 9th, 2014