Thursday, June 13, 2013

Memorial of Saint Anthony of Padua, priest and doctor of the Church

(II Corinthians 3:15-4:1.3-6; Matthew 5:20-26)

Although only thirty-six years old when he died, Anthony of Padua was declared a saint within a year of his demise.  He was recognized as one of the greatest preachers of his time, so strong that heretics converted after hearing him.  In surprising contrast, St. Paul was evidently not a forceful preacher.  He hints at this in the reading from II Corinthians that we hear today.

When Paul writes that “our gospel is veiled” but “we are not discouraged,” he is referring to his inability to convert the whole of Corinth.  Later on in the letter he reiterates a criticism that “’his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible’” (2 Cor 10:10).  But his defects as a speaker do not bother him as long as he remains loyal to his commission.  Indeed, he will write of enduring hardship as testimony to the legitimacy of his message about Jesus Christ.

We too testify to Christ by deeds of love.  But let us not be silent about our motives.  An age that speaks sophomorically about an “altruism gene” needs to hear that if it were not for Jesus Christ, we would likely behave very differently.