THE FIRST DOMINICAN MARTYR
Today we honour the memory of Saint Peter of Verona – the first Dominican martyr. He preached against Catharism which spread through northern Italy and southern France during the 13th century and still exists in various forms today. Catharism teaches that God created the spiritual world and the devil created the material world.
Peter was murdered by Cathars in 1252 and Pope Innocent IV canonised him the following year.
In today’s gospel, Our Lord finally gets a break from the many hostile confrontations and questions set to trap him. If you remember in Monday’s gospel a whole crowd of priests, scribes and elders refused to accept Our Lord’s pointed parable and wanted to arrest him. On Tuesday some Pharisees and Herodians mocked him with false flattery and tried to entrap him verbally. Yesterday some Sadducees asked an absurd question that was actually thinly disguised ridicule of belief in the resurrection. Today comes another man who, simply because of what he was, a scribe, would appear bent on resisting and testing Our Lord still more.
But this scribe asks a sincere question: “Which is the first of the commandments?” and he responds quite sincerely to Our Lord’s answer who in turn responds with sincere praise, telling him he is close to the Kingdom of God. Now, it would have been easy to assume that, since the scribe was part of the Jewish establishment, this was probably another attempt at entrapment. But Our Lord doesn’t deal in stereotypes and prejudices. He takes everything and everyone at face value and sees whatever good is in them, good that those operating on stereotypes are unable to see.
Today’s gospel is an invitation for each of us to ask, “whose goodness am I unable to see simply because of who or what they are, what they belong to or believe in, where they live or what they look like?” Our response will tell us how close we are to the Kingdom of God.