First off, let’s think through the need of some to interpret
scripture literally. On the one hand, if we take Jesus’ words
literally about “looking with lust on a woman,” they
would only apply to straight men and lesbians. On the other hand,
I don’t see may one-eyed, one-handed Christians out there.
Second, this is the feast of St. Anthony of Padua, a contemporary
of both St. Francis of Assisi and St. Dominic (early 13th century).
He was a powerful preacher who had a knack for calling people to
reconciliation with each other. Today he’s mainly remembered
for being the patron saint of those of us who lose things. I myself
couldn’t make it through the week without the help of St.
The confluence of the gospel and the feast could lead us to ask,
“What have we lost? What do we really need to find?”
So, let’s do just that.
What have we lost? It seems to me we have lost a sense
of sin. However, not in the usual sense, that folks don’t
take sinning or confession seriously. Seems to me we have lost the
sense of sin as ‘living in a world of illusion’ that
blinds us to the way things are. Case in point: what is often called
a sin of lust in this passage I think has more to do with
the sin of living in a world of imagination that finds fanciful
comfort in images that are forgeries of reality.
For men, it seems to me, it’s more about sex as conquest that
buttresses a fragile ego. For women, it’s about being made
special by the special someone. Either way, it’s a world of
illusion in which we escape from the simple and inglorious world
of loneliness and disappointment.
What do we really need to find? We need to find the mystery
that Anthony, Francis, Dominic, Theresa, Catherine, and Ignatius
found. It seems to me we need to find that embracing that inglorious
world of disappointment brings joy. That embracing the cross brings
St. Anthony, pray for us! Help us find the way to life.