Jun 13 – Memorial for St. Anthony of Padua, priest, religious, doctor
St. Anthony’s (1195-1231) wealthy family wanted him to be a great nobleman, but for the sake of Christ, he became a poor Franciscan. When the remains of St. Berard and his companions, the first Franciscan martyrs, were brought to be buried in his church, Anthony was moved to leave his order, enter the Friars Minor, and go to Morocco to evangelize.
Shipwrecked at Sicily, he joined some other brothers who were going to Portiuncula. One day when a scheduled speaker failed to appear, the brothers pressed him into speaking. He impressed them so much that he was thereafter constantly travelling, evangelizing, preaching, and teaching theology through Italy and France.
A gifted speaker, he attracted crowds everywhere he went, speaking in multiple tongues. Legend says that even the fish loved to listen. He was a wonder worker. As one of the most beloved saints, his images and statues are found everywhere. He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1946.
1 Kings 18:20-39
Ahab called all Israel together and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel. Elijah stepped out in front of all the people. ‘How long’ he said ‘do you mean to hobble first on one leg then on the other? If the Lord is God, follow him; if Baal, follow him.’ But the people never said a word. Elijah then said to them, ‘I, I alone, am left as a prophet of the Lord, while the prophets of Baal are four hundred and fifty. Let two bulls be given us; let them choose one for themselves, dismember it and lay it on the wood, but not set fire to it. I in my turn will prepare the other bull, but not set fire to it. You must call on the name of your god, and I shall call on the name of mine; the god who answers with fire, is God indeed.’ The people all answered, ‘Agreed!’ Elijah then said to the prophets of Baal, ‘Choose one bull and begin, for there are more of you. Call on the name of your god but light no fire.’ They took the bull and prepared it, and from morning to midday they called on the name of Baal. ‘O Baal, answer us!’ they cried, but there was no voice, no answer, as they performed their hobbling dance round the altar they had made. Midday came, and Elijah mocked them. ‘Call louder,’ he said ‘for he is a god: he is preoccupied or he is busy, or he has gone on a journey; perhaps he is asleep and will wake up.’ So they shouted louder and gashed themselves, as their custom was, with swords and spears until the blood flowed down them. Midday passed, and they ranted on until the time the offering is presented; but there was no voice, no answer, no attention given to them.
Then Elijah said to all the people, ‘Come closer to me’, and all the people came closer to him. He repaired the altar of the Lord which had been broken down. Elijah took twelve stones, corresponding to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, ‘Israel shall be your name’, and built an altar in the name of the Lord. Round the altar he dug a trench of a size to hold two measures of seed. He then arranged the wood, dismembered the bull, and laid it on the wood. Then he said, ‘Fill four jars with water and pour it on the holocaust and on the wood’; this they did. He said, ‘Do it a second time’; they did it a second time. He said, ‘Do it a third time’; they did it a third time. The water flowed round the altar and the trench itself was full of water. At the time when the offering is presented, Elijah the prophet stepped forward. ‘O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel,’ he said ‘let them know today that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, that I have done all these things at your command. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so that this people may know that you, the Lord, are God and are winning back their hearts.’
Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the holocaust and wood and licked up the water in the trench. When all the people saw this they fell on their faces. ‘The Lord is God,’ they cried, ‘the Lord is God.’
Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete them. I tell you solemnly, till heaven and earth disappear, not one dot, not one little stroke, shall disappear from the Law until its purpose is achieved. Therefore, the man who infringes even one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be considered the least in the kingdom of heaven; but the man who keeps them and teaches them will be considered great in the kingdom of heaven.’
I have not come to abolish but to complete them.
Every Sunday Mass, we recite the Creed to remind us of what we profess to adhere to as Catholics. The Creed is the summary of everything the Catholic Church was entrusted to teach. I wish I could say that I always reflect on it whenever I say it during Mass but there were times when I would say it mechanically.
Having grown up in a Catholic household, I used to hear the elders talk about how they disagree with the Catholic Church, and I have seen them live their lives in accordance to what would ‘make them happy’, even though their choices are not aligned with the teachings of the Catholic Church. I know how difficult it is to accept and live by every thing the Catholic Church teaches. Honestly, when I found out that weddings could be so expensive, I really thought cohabiting was more practical.
Jesus’s words today remind me that God is constant and never-changing. He did not come to abolish the law, he came to help us understand the law in its fullness. He didn’t come to remove the yoke, but to show us that we can carry our crosses too. We can’t take just part of the law and choose to live against the rest that do not suit us. We can’t take just part of the cross because it will no longer be a cross.
I honestly think that it is difficult to ‘agree’ on everything the Catholic Church teaches, but I hope we can pray for obedience. Even if we don’t understand, even if it hurts to follow the law to completion, and even though it will cost us a lot, let us still obey and be faithful.
Many things happening around the world, such as Ireland voting to decriminalize abortion and many countries allowing same-sex marriage, had Catholics voting for these changes. I think that we, the Church, are partly to blame, for we have not been able to witness and Catechize well. Even so, I pray that many of us Catholics would first obey our Church’s teachings, and then ask God to help us understand his teachings and his laws. It took me about seven years of struggling with the Church’s doctrines and I can say that I am thankful that I was given the grace to hold on and obey.
Let us be Catholics because we obey what God has entrusted to the Catholic Church for us. And if we disagree with some of these teachings, let not our actions show and let us continue to seek to understand the heart of God.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)
Prayer: Dear Lord, there are many conflicting messages around the world and sometimes, I emphatize and agree with those who feel that the Church’s teachings are outdated. Help me, Lord, to be firm in following you, trusting that you know what you are doing.
Thanksgiving: Thank you for allowing me to know your laws, even if I don’t understand all of them yet. I know they are for my own good.