St. Martin I

Catholics celebrate the memory of Pope St. Martin I on April 13. The saint suffered exile and humiliation for his defense of orthodoxy in a dispute over the relationship between Christ's human and divine natures.

Martin was born in the Italian city of Tuscany, during either the late sixth or early seventh century. He became a deacon and served in Rome, where he acquired a reputation for education and holiness. Pope Theodore I chose Martin as his representative to the emperor in Constantinople during a period of theological controversy between the imperial capital and the Roman Church.

The dispute in which Martin became involved, first as the papal nuncio and later as Pope himself, was over Christ's human nature. Although the Church had always acknowledged the eternal Son of God as “becoming man” within history, some Eastern bishops continued to insist that Christ's human nature was not entirely like that of other human beings.

During the seventh century, authorities within the Byzantine Church and empire promoted a version of this heresy known as “monothelitism.” This teaching acknowledged that Christ had two natures –  human and divine – but only one will: the divine. Pope Theodore condemned the teaching, and excommunicated Patriarch Pyrrhus of Constantinople for holding to it.

Martin inherited this controversy when he succeeded Theodore as Pope. At the Lateran Council of 649, he followed his predecessor's lead in condemning Pyrrhus' successor, Patriarch Paul II, who accepted Emperor Constans II's decision to forbid all discussion of whether or not Christ had both a human and a divine will. Pope Martin condemned monothelitism completely, and denounced those who held to it.

He insisted that the teaching which denied Christ's human will could not be glossed over as an irrelevant point. To refuse to acknowledge Christ's distinct divine and human wills, he believed, was to deny the biblical teaching that Christ was like humanity in everything other than sin.

The Byzantine emperor retaliated against Pope Martin by sending his own representative to Italy during the council, with orders either to arrest the Pope or have him killed. A henchman of the emperor, who attempted to assassinate the Pope while he was distributing Holy Communion, later testified that he suddenly lost his eyesight and could not carry out the death sentence.

In 653, the emperor again sought to silence Pope Martin, this time by sending a delegation to capture him. A struggle ensued, and he was taken to Constantinople before being exiled to the island of Naxos for a year. Those who tried to send help to the exiled Pope were denounced as traitors to the Byzantine empire. Eventually he was brought back to Constantinople as a prisoner, and sentenced to death.

The Pope's appointed executioners stripped him of his clothes and led him through the city, before locking him in a prison with a group of murderers. He was beaten so severely that he appeared to be on the verge of death. At the last moment, however, both the Patriarch of Constantinople and the emperor agreed that the Pontiff should not be executed.

Instead he was kept in prison before being banished again, to an island that was suffering from a severe famine. Pope Martin wrote to a friend that he was “not only separated from the rest of the world,” but “even deprived of the means to live.”

Although the Pope died in exile, in 655, his relics were later brought back to Rome. The Third Ecumenical Council of Constantinople eventually vindicated Pope St. Martin I, by confirming in 681 that Christ had both a divine and a human will.


Acts 6:1-7

1 Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists murmured against the Hebrews because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.
2 And the twelve summoned the body of the disciples and said, "It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables.
3 Therefore, brethren, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this duty.
4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word."
5 And what they said pleased the whole multitude, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Proch'orus, and Nica'nor, and Ti'mon, and Par'menas, and Nicola'us, a proselyte of Antioch.
6 These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands upon them.
7 And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.


John 6:16-21

16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea,
17 got into a boat, and started across the sea to Caper'na-um. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them.
18 The sea rose because a strong wind was blowing.
19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near to the boat. They were frightened,
20 but he said to them, "It is I; do not be afraid."
21 Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.


Psalms 33:1-2, 4-5, 18-19

1 Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous! Praise befits the upright.
2 Praise the LORD with the lyre, make melody to him with the harp of ten strings!
4 For the word of the LORD is upright; and all his work is done in faithfulness.
5 He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD.
18 Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love,
19 that he may deliver their soul from death, and keep them alive in famine.


Lord, give us the wisdom to take to heart your encouragement

Saturday April 13 2024
2nd Week of Easter 
Acts 6:1-7 Ps. 33(32):1-2,4-5,18-19
Jn. 6:16-21  (Ps Wk II)


Throughout the Bible, God frequently encourages individuals not to be afraid. Although in their context the words may have been spoken to individuals or to a specific group, such as the disciples in the boat in the Gospel passage we read today, these words of encouragement are meant for all of us, both individually and as a Church. Spiritually it is important to notice that the encouragement not to be afraid is accompanied by a reason or an immediate consequence. “Do not be afraid, I have called you by your name and you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1). 

The angel told Joseph not to be afraid to take Mary home as his wife. Then he added a reason: “because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit” (Mt 1:20). God does not call upon us not to be afraid in an abstract way, but in a way that is supported by our experience if we have the wisdom and the reflective patience to look at our lives and see from experience why we should not be afraid. Sometimes the reason is spelled out in detail; sometime it is very simple as in today’s Gospel: “It is I, do not be afraid”.

Lord, give us the wisdom to take to heart your encouragement not to be afraid when facing difficulties in life.