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Friday, November 11, 2011

St. Martin of Tours

Two incidents in the life of St Martin of Tours, both recorded by his disciple and biographer, Sulpicius Severus, capture our attention. In the first, Martin meets an almost naked beggar outside the city of Amiens in present day France. Moved by the man's desperate need, Martin cuts his own cloak in half and gives it to the beggar. That night, in a dream, Martin sees Jesus dressed in the cloak he had given the beggar and hears Jesus say: "This is Martin, the unbaptized one, who has clad me." Sulpicius says that after the dream Martin "rushed to be baptized."

The second story is about Martin's "conscientious objection." Conscripted into the Roman army against his will at 15 , Martin was discharged 8 years later after refusing a bonus given to soldiers on the eve of battle. Severus quotes Martin's response to his commanding officer. "I have served you as a soldier; now let me serve Christ. Give the bounty to those who are going to fight. But I am a soldier of Christ and it is not lawful for me to fight."(1) Imprisoned for his refusal to take up arms, Martin offers to stand unarmed at the front of the troops as they ready themselves for battle, but when the two armies forged a peace, his gesture was never needed and Martin was discharged from the army. These stories were so compelling in the early church that Martin became and remains one of our church's most popular saints.

Like Jesus in today's gospel who reminds us, "Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses it will save it," Martin challenges us not to cling even to that which we have earned. How many coats, unworn for years, hang in our closets? How much food sits in our pantries or cupboards unused for months? While most of us will not be asked to lay down our lives for the sake of the gospel, we need to pray regularly to be ready for whatever the Lord does ask.

Today, let go of a worn out thought that troubles you. Let go of resentment against someone long dead. Let go.

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