10th Week, Thursday, Jun 13: St. Anthony of Padua

10th Week, Thursday, Jun 13: St. Anthony of Padua

1 Kings 18:41-46 / Matthew 5:20-26 

Now, go and eat: Elijah sat with his head between his knees.

Elijah’s words to Ahab, “Now, go and eat,” suggest he even got the king to fast to petition God to send rain upon the land. Elijah’s strange posture suggests that he was engaging in intense prayer. Prayer and fasting are often joined in Scripture. King David fasted and prayed for his infant son. (2 Samuel 12:16) Ezra and the people fasted and prayed for protection. (Ezra 8:21) The early Church fasted and prayed before sending Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey. (Acts 13:3). The nation of Israel fasted and prayed in time of national need. (2 chronicles 20:3-6); Jesus fasted and prayed in the desert. (Luke 4:2)


When was the last time we not only prayed but also joined fasting to it? “I know now . . .there is no prayer without fasting.” Mohandas Gandhi


The present weather in Singapore can be rather uncomfortable. It can be so hot and humid, and the little rain that comes along does not cool things down much. But no matter what we say about the weather, we in Singapore have not experienced drought, not even severe drought. We have not gone for months, or even years without any rain at all. But some of us may remember that in the past when there was a prolonged dry spell, and the water level in our reservoirs was at an alarming low, there was water-rationing. So, we can imagine what it was like to have a drought for three and a half years, without a drop of rain! 

That was the situation in the 1st reading. The land of Israel was experiencing drought for three and a half years already and there was also the consequent famine. But king Ahab was not that bothered by it at all. In his mind, the drought would end, the rains will come, and the famine will be resolved. So we may understand why the prophet Elijah told Ahab, "Go back, eat and drink". It was more like a scornful remark about his indifference about the sufferings of his people and his selfish concern. King Ahab was a figure of a hardness of heart and he had grown coarse from constantly rejecting the Lord. He had seen the fire from heaven which consumed Elijah's sacrifice, he had seen the 450 prophets of the idol Baal slain by Elijah, his people were suffering from drought and famine. But he still didn't even bother to turn to the Lord for help. Instead, it was Elijah who did the praying. 

We may not have the hardness and coarseness of heart like king Ahab, but Jesus warns us that if our virtues go no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees in the gospel, then we may know what it truly means to be a disciple. 

And if our virtues go no deeper than those who are not Christians, then it may also mean that the teachings of Jesus have not soften our hearts, and our souls are like a land dry and weary from drought and famine. 

Jesus wants to shower His blessings on us and soften our hearts with His love so that our hearts will bear fruits of forgiveness and reconciliation.


DISCIPLES ARE RECONCILERS:                        

 Introduction: Elijah prayed and the rains came. Faith can move mountains. The believer draws from his faith the power to do what looks impossible. If he trusts God, he becomes strong with God’s power. This is the impact and intent of the “fioretti” of Elijah. But the theological ground of it is solid: God does not abandon those who trust in him and gives them a strength beyond their human potentials. 

In the Gospel, Christ tells us that our practice of love should go farther than that of the Scribes and Pharisees. All laws and the whole discipleship are based on love and creating a climate of love in which Christians do not only not kill in acts of violence but not even damage relationships in words and thoughts. Love at its deepest is shown in forgiveness without conditions, even if the one wrong is the other person! That’s not easy at all! 

Opening Prayer: Our God of love, permeate us so deeply with the mentality of the Good News of your Son, Jesus Christ, that in us, there remains no room for violence, hatred, or looking down on others. Help us to create among us, an atmosphere of trust and deep love that we give first place to the needs of others and forget ourselves for their sake. Let there be among us forgiveness without regret as was taught to us by Christ, our Lord.   


–          For all of us, that we may never put the law above people but practice first the great commandment of loving one another, we pray:

–          For those who feel hurt by others, that they may learn the difficult lesson of forgiving wholeheartedly, we pray:

         For our communities, that we may seek God’s will together, accept one another, respect each other’s freedom and bear witness to God’s kindness, we pray:

  Prayer over the Gifts: Lord our God, here are our gifts of bread and wine.  Let there be peace among us, even if, rightly or wrongly, someone has something against us. Even if it is very hard, we want to seek reconciliation with one another, for the sake of him who has brought us reconciliation with you at the cost of his life, Jesus Christ, our Lord forever.    

Prayer after Communion: Lord our God, let our communities be places of deep love and friendship and unlimited reconciliation. For we have listed and accepted the word of your Son and we have celebrated his sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins of the new and everlasting covenant. May we also celebrate in everyday life the reconciliation you sent us through Jesus Christ, our Lord. 


Saint Anthony of Padua, 1195-1231

Feast day June 13

One of the most loved friends in heaven is St. Anthony of Padua. Your church might have a statue of him, and you might even have a holy card with his picture on it. People ask St. Anthony for help all the time, and for the most ordinary things, and that’s okay. Like a good friend, St. Anthony is always willing to help. People especially like to ask St. Anthony to help them find things that are lost. In a minute, we’ll find out why.

We turn to St. Anthony for help with our ordinary problems, but his life was really anything but ordinary. St. Anthony was born in Portugal, and when he grew up, he studied to be a priest. He was a brilliant student and knew the Bible backward and forward. Someone once said that if all the Bibles in Europe were burned, it wouldn’t be a terrible problem. People could just go to St. Anthony, and he could write the Scriptures down for them!

Anthony was a good teacher, but one day something happened that inspired him to follow Jesus in a slightly different way. Five Franciscan priests had traveled to Morocco, a country in Africa, to preach the good news about Jesus. They were brutally killed, and what was left of their bodies was brought to the town where Anthony lived.

Anthony couldn’t sit still any longer. More than anything, he wanted to go to Morocco himself and try to give the love of Jesus to the people who had done this terrible thing. No one seemed to need Christ’s love more than people who would torture and kill innocent men.

So Anthony joined the Franciscan order, got on a ship, and sailed to Morocco. Things didn’t work out as he had hoped, though. He fell ill soon after he arrived and had no choice but to return to Europe.

Anthony’s plans weren’t working out, but perhaps that’s because God had something else in mind for him. The ship Anthony was on, the one he thought was taking him back to university life in Portugal, got blown off course by a sudden strong wind. It went straight to the island of Sicily, where a huge meeting of Franciscan brothers happened to be taking place at that very moment.

Anthony didn’t speak at the meeting, since he was really an outsider. He sat silently and listened. Perhaps he even heard St. Francis of Assisi speaking of holy poverty as the way to follow Jesus and of how important it is to preach the love of Jesus to all people, especially the poor.

After the meeting, Anthony continued to live a quiet life as a friar, working in a hospital in Italy, taking the humblest jobs of all. Back in Portugal, Anthony had already begun to gain fame as a scholar and teacher, but he said not a word about that in the hospital. He worked hard in the kitchen and the garden, helping the sick in the most ordinary, everyday ways.

Then one day something happened that was almost as strange as the ship wandering off course. There was a large meeting of Franciscans and Dominicans, but oddly enough, the plans for who would give the sermon at the meeting fell through. There were plenty of fine preachers present, but none of them were prepared.

Those in charge of the meeting went down the line of friars. “Would you care to give the sermon, Brother? No? What about you, Father? No? Well, what about you, Fr. Anthony—is that your name?”

Slowly, Anthony rose, and just as slowly, he began to speak. The other friars sat up to listen. There was something very special about Anthony. He didn’t use complicated language, but his holiness and love for God shone through his words. He was one of the best preachers they had ever heard!

From that point on, Anthony’s quiet life in the hospital kitchen was over. For the rest of his life, he traveled around Italy and France, preaching sermons in churches and town squares to people who came from miles around.

His listeners heard Anthony speak about how important it is for us to live every day in God’s presence. As a result of his words, hundreds of people changed their lives and bad habits, bringing Jesus back into their hearts.

Anthony wasn’t always successful, though. In most cities, businesspeople would shut down their shops to come listen to Anthony. But in one city the townspeople closed their hearts to him and listened with hard faces and harsh eyes.

St. Anthony had done his best. He shrugged and turned around. The fish in the bay poked their heads out of the water to see what was going on, and St. Anthony started preaching to them instead!

Now, back to the first question. Why do we ask St. Anthony to help us find lost things?

St. Anthony had a book of psalms that was quite special to him. It was special because in those days before the printing press, books were rare and expensive. But it was also special because it contained many notes Anthony had made to help him in his preaching and teaching.

Late one night, a young Franciscan decided to leave the community. He’d had enough of that life, so he made plans to just sneak out in the middle of the night. He saw Anthony’s book of psalms on his way out, and he snatched it up and ran. He knew that he could sell this precious book for a good deal of money.

Of course, Anthony was quite upset. He prayed that God would change the young man’s heart and bring him back to the Franciscan life. He also hoped that while God was at it, he would return Anthony’s book too.

The next day, the young man returned, tired and ashamed, with Anthony’s book. He also brought back his own gifts and talents, which he decided once more to offer to the Franciscan community.

So that’s why we like to ask St. Anthony to help us find lost things. He was an extraordinary man who can still help us from heaven, even in the most ordinary ways.