Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Humility and Martin de Porres

This was a homily preached to my seminary community on November 3rd, 2014. The reading for the day (Phil 2:1-4, Ps 131:1b-3, and Lk 14:12-14) may be seen here

Martin de Porres was a lay member of the Dominican Order. (b. 1579 - d. 1639, Lima, Peru)

Humility, as we heard today, is regarding others as more important than ourselves and giving of our wealth and gifts to those who cannot repay us. Humility is expressed by lowliness and generosity.

Martin de Porres, whom we celebrate today, is a model of humility. Born in lowliness as a mulatto he sought to make himself even lower. He preferred to be out of sight and perform menial tasks. He cared for the poor and the sick. He also performed many miracles of healing. His fame spread because of this, much to his dismay.

He was sent by his superior at one time to heal the Archbishop of Mexico who had fallen very ill. Having completed his task, he returned to his friary embarrassed his gift was made public. He then sought to perform the most menial tasks he could think of. A priest asked him, "Would you not be better off in the palace of the Archbishop?"

Martin replied, "Father, I think one moment doing what I'm doing is more important than many days in the palace of the Lord Archbishop."


I believe an appropriate image of humility is a bed of white-hot coals. Whether they are our faults and failings, or our accomplishments and talents, humility immolates them all.

Gold is purified by intense heat which separates the dross from it. We ought to commit all things to the furnace of humility, for it separates the dross of despair and pride and produces in us love--that one virtue that is the fulfillment and crown of all things; it is the one thing that endures, for even faith and hope will pass away.

Jesus Christ is rightly said to love perfectly because He emptied Himself perfectly. Allow this Eucharist, a sign of His humility and the source of ours, to remove all dross from your hearts day by day.

To paraphrase the book of Sirach,
There is no precious gold except by fire,
and there are no acceptable men made except in the furnace of humility (cf., Sir 2:5).