Memorial of Saint Martin of Tours, Bishop
Today is the feast of St. Martin of Tours, a well-known soldier-saint; fitting as this is also the day when our nation observes Veteran’s Day and the formal end of the First World War. It is worthy of note to point out that it was not a scholar of the law, a priest, or other pious woman who Jesus declared was the greatest example of faith, but rather the pagan centurion begging for the life of his beloved servant. (Mt. 8:10)
Soldiers are by nature servants; they obey a master who, ideally, gives orders based on what is best for the people he is serving, and the best soldiers are those who are the most obedient. What does it mean to be obedient? To put your master first. A servant surrenders their will to the will of their master; a good soldier obeys his orders, even if he cannot understand how they might be good ones (granted, this is a very simple idea of being a soldier, but this is not an ethical treatise!); they must be carried out. How can this basic understanding of the soldier and the servant help us to prepare to receive Christ? In the words of another French soldier-saint—Joan of Arc—“My God must be first served.”
In today’s Gospel Jesus reminds us that a servant puts their master before his own interests. A hard day’s work doesn’t excuse a servant from preparing his master’s dinner! And expect no thanks, for a servant is simply doing what he is told and expects no profit from it. When it comes to being Christ’s disciple we shouldn’t do His will because we expect a reward, but rather it is because this is what a true disciple does. When the work is finished, when the battle is over, then there is peace and rest, which are their own reward. If we keep Christ in the forefront of our hearts, trying always to do His will first over and above our own, we will be less and less resistant to His will in the future and will be much more receptive to Him when He comes to us in the Eucharist. Rather than opening the door to a stranger or even a guest, we are welcoming the master of the house. Bear this perspective in mind when next you are at Mass and speak aloud the words of that faithful centurion: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof…” How blessed are we, that not only are we servants of so kind a master, but that the very house in which we may first serve Him is the temple our own person?