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St. Martin’s Week

‘Come Down ‘
St. Martin’s Week

The eleventh of November is the liturgical feast for Saint Martin of Tours. Saint Martin was a soldier who through his meeting with a poor man encountered Jesus and converted his life to become a priest and later a bishop. He became famous for living among the poor and his efforts for non violent conflict resolution.
It is for those two reasons that the inceptors of St. Martin CSA choose Saint Martin as their patron. Every year, two weekends prior to eleventh of November the organisation starts to celebrate the efforts of the more than 1000 community volunteers in their different locations and their service to the needy in their midst. This series of celebrations is what the organisation calls the St. Martin’s week.


In those 2 weekends 7 volunteer day celebrations full of song and dance materialized.
The ownership of the volunteers by the community was clearly visible in all areas by the way they participated and contributed in the event. This was an encouraging sign of appreciation for the community service carried out by the volunteers.

Although St. Martin CSA week is filled with performances and gifts for the volunteers there is also ample time set aside for reflection.  This year’s reflection was build around the theme ‘Come Down’ a message surrounding two particular gospels according to Luke.  One of the Pharisee and the Tax collector and the one of Zacchaeus. Both Gospels in different ways ask us to come down take for instance the Gospel of the Pharisee and the tax collector.

Jesus told this parable:   to some who were confident of their own goodness and despised everybody else, “Two men went up to the temple to pray, a Pharisee and a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood up and prayed in front of himself:  ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men I am not grasping, unjust, and adulterous like everyone else,and particularly I am not like this tax collector here.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance.  He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’  “This man, I tell you, went home again justified; the other did not.  For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Lk. 18, 8b - 17

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through.   A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus;  he was a chief tax collector and  he was wealthy.   He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd.    So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him,  since Jesus was coming that way.  When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him,  “Zacchaeus, come down immediately.  I must stay at your house today.”  So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to complain, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner’.” But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount”. Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man came to seek and to save what was lost”.

Lk 19: 1-10


The Pharisee looks at God as an accountant; he feels that he has to account to God all he has done right in comparison to the tax collector. He does not consider God as his friend but as someone he fears. He is glorifying himself, not God; he is judging the tax collector but does not look at his own short comings. The tax collector on the other hand, stands in a distance like the prodigal son awaiting forgiveness. He does not look up to heaven, he is humble and  not concerned with what he has achieved but with the sins he has committed. The Pharisee has moved away from God due to his pride and moved away from the people because he believes he is self sufficient.

The tax collector on the other hand has opened himself to be consoled by the Lord, he is receptive for his own weaknesses and asks for forgiveness from the loving Father.  By humbling himself he went home justified, by taking the low position, ‘coming down’ he received Gods warm embrace.

In our work, in our lives we are easily inclined to behave like the Pharisee, boosting about our achievements, pointing our finger to others in our futile efforts to hide our wounds. This Gospel however encourages us to step down from this pedestal of pretence, to accept our weaknesses and share them with our brothers and sisters as we serve the community where we find the Lord.

Reflecting on the Gospel of Zacchaeus there are again several interesting points to consider. In his life Jesus always liked to associate himself with the lowest, in this story, he goes to Jericho, a very low area which is actually below see level. In Jericho, he meets Zacchaeus, a tax collector considered to be excluded from salvation by the law of that time. In associating with Zacchaeus Jesus associates with the people of presumably low status. Worthless in the consideration of many. In the story he is wishing to see Jesus, but one of his weaknesses the fact that he is ‘short’ might prevent him to do so. Like us ,as human beings, he tries to ‘hide’ and compensate by climbing a tree. In Jesus encounter with Zacchaeus, Jesus looks at him from below, He ‘goes down’ to the level of Zacchaeus and in this way and Zacchaeus feels loved and is able to come down from the tree. In the scripture the word used for looking up can be directly translated as looking up to God. Jesus in looking up at Zacchaeus sees God. In this moment Zacchaeus ( the people who are considered ‘low or weaker’) helps Jesus to meet God.
In feeling loved Zacchaeus is able to let go of his need to prove himself, to stop compensating for his weaknesses and he comes down from the tree and by doing so he is able to let go of his material possession and stay with the Lord.

In these Gospels we have learned that by humbling ourselves, by coming down from our pride and by ‘looking up to the poor’ we are able to create relationships which are new and refreshing , moving closer to our destiny, moving closer to God.

This experience of moving closer to the Lord is a driving factor for us in St. Martin CSA therefore taking the opportunity of reflecting deeply on that special journey we are experiencing is moment we cherish and enjoy.

St. Martin’s week reached its climax on Saturday the 10th of November 2007 when the final celebration for staff members, management committee members and collaborators took place in the new and beautiful office building across the street. During this particular celebration diverse members of the St. Martin community like Reverent Michael and chairlady Miss Wamithi shared with the audience, however more touching where the volunteers who testified to the positive change they had received through their encounter with the vulnerable which had enabled them to ‘come down’ and share the hope giving bread of life.
The celebration closed with a presentation from youths from one of the biggest slums of Kenya Korogocho. They delivered spectacle acrobatic stunts and energetic dances proving to us that people who are considered one of  Kenya’s poorest have a great  and wonderful potential once we ‘come down’ to their level and believe in them.

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