Written by Sr. Rosemary Finnegan, O.P.
We hear a beautiful message from St. Paul today. He dearly loves the people of Philippi because they were the first Christian community in Europe that Paul established. This letter is Paul at his pastoral best – at one moment he’s praising the community, then teaching, then encouraging, and then warning.
The beautiful section we heard today is actually an early Christian hymn about Christ that Paul is quoting. He wants the people to always remember that it is Jesus Christ who is our example of how we should live. He ardently wants them to manifest the qualities and attitude of Christ: compassion, mercy, selflessness. When they imitate Christ, he tells them, they will then treat one another with humility, be more concerned about others, and consider others to be better than themselves.
Such was the attitude of St. Martin de Porres, whom we remember today. Martin was born in 1579 to a single mother who was a freed slave. He was a biracial child who was looked down upon and mocked because of his dark features. Martin grew up in dire poverty in Lima, Peru and at 12, he learned how to be a barber and administer medicine, but he wanted more. He became a volunteer of the Dominican Order, but 9 years later, the Dominicans were so moved by his example of humble prayer, penance and charity, that they asked him to become a Brother. He served others in many ways and always with compassion: as a spiritual director, caregiver for the sick, founder of an orphanage, and minister to the enslaved people arriving from Africa. Martin died in 1639 and was canonized in 1962. Today, in our racially tense society, Martin is honored by our Dominican Order and the Church, as a model of Christian forgiveness and justice, and as one who imitated the qualities of Christ that Paul speaks of in our first reading.
This central message from Paul about having an attitude of Christ, and the example of St. Martin, are powerful for us to reflect on today, Election Day. As Catholics, we pray for whoever is elected, and especially that Christ’s peace will be a hallmark, not only of our country, but also of our own lives.
Tomorrow, after this election, our faith tells us that God will still reign among us and that our Constitution will still be a solid foundation of our government. But we, the people, will still have the hard work of fostering understanding, practicing reconciliation and nurturing healing among us as we continue to seek the common good for all. We do that difficult task by looking to Christ and remembering the first lines of Paul’s heartfelt plea to us:
Brothers and sisters:
Have among yourselves the same attitude
that is also yours in Christ Jesus.