|Memorial of St. Anthony of Padua
Psalm 116:10-11, 15-16, 17-18
"This treasure we possess is in earthen vessels, to make it clear that its surpassing power comes from God and not from us.Ē (2 Cor 4:7)
Lost something...canít seem to find it anywhere? For those of us in the senior citizen population, it hints that the aging process might be making its presence ever more apparent. As a child, we were encouraged to call on St. Anthony to help us find the missing item. I have to admit that at times when I did find the lost item, I wondered if St. Anthony fell in the category of other superstitions - lucky rabbitís foot or the wish on a four-leaf clover or falling star.
Today we observe the memorial of St. Anthony of Padua. I was curious about why the church decided that St. Anthonyís role was the Ďfinderí of lost items. My research unearthed a compassion-ate man whose journey to follow Jesus included the mundane as well as the miraculous. He wished to preach Christís gospel in Morocco and to become a martyr for Christís sake, but due to illness found his plans changed. Because of his deep understanding of Scripture, he became a great preacher/teacher in Italy whoís influence brought many to repentance. Perhaps this is why he became the saint to be invoked for the recovery of lost things...he assisted many to find their way back to Godís loving forgiveness. His illnesses and the call of God through the community to bring Godís presence and love to the people in an ordinary way changed Anthonyís plans.
Perhaps St. Anthony was frustrated by the change of plans, but chose to obey his superiors commission to go teach and preach rather than to go off to foreign lands and possible martyrdom. How often do we think that we know what is best for others or ourselves? We make plans, set our own agendas, and then become upset when things donít go according to our designs?
St. Paul, in todayís first reading seems to bear this out. He acknowledges the continual struggle with the fact that our bodies are earthen vessels. We have to cope with lifeís challenges, not only with our own human weaknesses, but those of othersí around us. Yet Paul doesnít despair; rather he sees his own failings as well as the persecution/resistance from others to his message as a way that Godís presence can be more fully recognized. Paul says, "I believed, therefore I spoke." If we believe, do we also speak, bearing witness to the truth of the spirit in our lives, yet willing to let go of the outcome and let God work through us?
I find this most difficult at times. I often get caught up in trying to perfect what and/or how I am doing...thinking that if I just Ďget it rightí, others will certainly understand the message and then, of course, follow through on the message. But, as Paul reminds us, "...our bodies are earthen vessels" ... with many limitations. How difficult it is to not succumb to judgements by others, or often, much more critical self-judgement! How do we invite the Spirit into our actions, our words, our witnessing to the spirit of God in our lives? Can we truly Ďlet go and let God?í
As the psalmist today, proclaims: " I am your servant...I will fulfill what I vowed to you in the presence of all your people." And earlier in the psalm, "Be at rest once more, O my soul, for God has been good to me." To be at rest, we are encouraged to trust in Godís love to carry us through whatever struggles we face, whether from our own limitations, and/or the challenges of others and the world in which we live.
Finally, todayís gospel holds up some harsh teachings: "If your right
eye causes you to sin tear it out and throw it away. It is better
for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown
in Gehenna." St. Anthony once advised a young man that it is better
to cut off his foot than to kick his mother. However, after the young
man cut off his foot, Anthony miraculously rejoined it. Perhaps Anthony
realized that such a strong admonition must be tempered with compassion.
As humans, we continue to struggle with our tendencies to do what is not
good. However, our God is there to help us rather than to condemn
us, if only we turn to Godís forgiveness and repent.
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