St. Martin of Tours, Servant of the Poor

Luke 17: 7-10
Tit 2:1-8, 11-14 / Ps 37

We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.
(Luke 17:10)

For the gift of life it’s only right
That we serve the Lord in all our ways,
Our hope in His Word our guiding light,
Divine reward by His loving grace.

“Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’ ” (Luke 17: 7-10)


At first it would seem that our Lord Jesus intended this parable for the Pharisees and the high priests, who were proud and feeling righteous in their rigid observance of Judaic laws and practices. However, when taken in the context of the foregoing verses, this parable is actually a continuation of Jesus’ response to His apostles who asked Him to increase their faith (Lk.17:5). It is only by admitting our unworthiness, and humbly acknowledging God’s power over all our works that we can grow in faith.

As St. Paul said, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Eph.2:8-10) It is important to keep this in mind, so that we do not fall into the same pit as the Pharisees in Jesus’ time, who thought that their faithful tithing and observance of rituals were enough to gain salvation, if not divine merits. None of our works of mercy, religious devotions, or witnessing to others can be means of attaining grace; instead they are manifestations of the grace of God at work in our lives.

Today the Church commemorates the feast of St. Martin of Tours, the French saint who is best remembered for his humility and compassion for the prisoners and the poor. Born in the year 315 or 316 in a province of the Roman Empire, he was the son of pagan parents, who at the young age of ten desired to become a Christian, begging at first to be a catechumen. When commissioned to serve as a soldier, at fifteen, he refused to take up arms, and instead chose to live as a poor monk. His devotion to help the poor and convert unbelievers made him so popular with the people of Tours that when their bishop died, they forced this simple monk to succeed him. Although he established his own monastery apart from the town of Tours, he was able to serve his diocese as their bishop and live a contemplative life at the same time. He is most remembered for his holiness and total detachment, and is credited for working many miracles even in his lifetime, including raising a dead man back to life. His whole life was devoted in serving God through the conversion and healing of many. In complete submission, St. Martin exemplified what our Lord Jesus taught: ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’ ” (Luke 17:10)

Lord Jesus, sometimes, we feel that the more we serve You, the more You allow us to share in Your pains and labors while You were here on earth. We consider our ‘stripes’ a great privilege— for the greatest joy is the hope of spending eternal happiness with You in heaven for persevering in Your service. Amen.

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