FINDING THE LOST SOULS
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Isa 61:1-3; Ps 89:2-5, 27, 29; 2 Cor 1:18-22; Lk 10:1-9 ]
Most of us turn to St Anthony only when we lose our things. He is often seen as the patron for lost things. Indeed, we have many testimonies of people, including myself, praying to St Anthony when we cannot find our things either because we misplaced them or lost them. But if our devotion to St Anthony is confined to this alone, we are not giving full appreciation to this feast that we are celebrating. St Anthony is seen to be the patron for lost items only because he, like Jesus, came for the lost souls. St Anthony was consumed with the desire to save souls. So more than just turning to him in prayer when we lose our things, we should first and foremost turn to him to save our souls and those souls who are lost. Finding lost souls is far more important to finding our lost things. If we are to have a true devotion to St Anthony, we must also seek to find the lost souls and not just our lost things. What can we learn from this great saint in finding lost souls?
Firstly, if we are to find lost souls, we must first lose ourselves in Him. Indeed, St Anthony who came from a rich family left everything to join the Augustinian order in Lisbon. We must be ready to give up our riches and worldly pursuits for Jesus and for the joy of bringing Jesus to people. But we cannot do that unless we are people of prayer and filled with the Holy Spirit. We read that because of an illness which prevented him from fulfilling his desire to be a missionary in Morocco, he sailed to Sicily and landed in Italy. There he founded a small hermitage where he spent his time in prayer, reading the scriptures and doing menial tasks. It was at this place that he deepened his prayer life, his knowledge of the scriptures and of his understanding of God. Through a time of solitude and a life of simplicity, he came to discover the truth of the Word of God and the deeper meaning of the gospel.
Secondly, we need people to inspire us to offer our lives for the salvation of others. We need good models and mentors. If today we lack zealous Catholics who are willing to sacrifice their lives for the salvation of others, it is because we lack good role models. Fortunately, St Anthony had good role models that inspired him to give up his life for Jesus and for the mission. We read that what truly inspired him to join the Franciscans when he was already an Augustinian monk was because one day, he saw a procession of five bodies of Franciscans who were martyred for Christ. This inspired him to do more for the Lord and to give his life entirely to Him as the Franciscans did. As a consequence, he joined the Franciscan Order. He hoped to follow the Franciscans who died whilst preaching in Morocco, Africa. He too wanted to spread the gospel.
Thirdly, He must have heard the Lord saying to His disciples, “The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest.” He felt the urgency of the call of the Lord to proclaim the gospel to all of humanity. “Start off now, but remember, I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Carry no purse, no haversack, no sandals. Salute no one on the road.” Like the Suffering Servant, he felt the call to spread the good news and to be a blessing to those who were poor, broken and lost. “The spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for the Lord has anointed me. He has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to bind up hearts that are broken; to proclaim liberty to captives, freedom to those in prison; to proclaim a year of favour from the Lord, a day of vengeance for our God, to comfort all those who mourn and to give them for ashes a garland; for mourning robe the oil of gladness, for despondency, praise.”
How, then, can we bring in lost souls for Christ? Firstly, our lives must be one of praise to God. We must sing praises to God not only with our lips but with our lives. St Anthony lived a humble life in poverty like the poor Franciscans in those days. With the psalmist, we say, “I will sing for ever of your love, O Lord; through all ages my mouth will proclaim your truth. Of this I am sure, that your love lasts for ever, that your truth is firmly established as the heavens.” There is no better way than making our lives a song of praise to God in all that we say and do.
Secondly, St Anthony was a man who was clear about the gospel of what is right and wrong. He was firmly established in the gospel. Like St Paul in the second reading, he was one who could say, “I swear by God’s truth, there is no Yes and No about what we say to you. The Son of God, the Christ Jesus that we proclaimed among you – I mean Silvanus and Timothy and I – was never Yes and No: with him it was always Yes, and however many the promises God made, the Yes to them all is in him.” The real problem why we lack the zeal to spread the gospel is because of relativism. Today, we lack clarity and conviction of what we believe and not just who we believe. We are not convinced of the gospel and especially of Christ as our saviour, much less what He has taught us in the scriptures. St Anthony read the scriptures and made the Word of God his own.
Thirdly, he was a man who was sincere in reaching out to sinners and heretics. He wanted to bring sinners into realization of the need for repentance. He was an outstanding preacher and the first Franciscan theologian. Whilst his sermons were preached with gentleness and compassion, he did not mince his words when it came to reprimanding the wicked, the complacent clergy and those who practiced injustice. As St Paul urged Timothy, “proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths.” (2 Tim 4:2-4)
Fourthly, he preached in the power of the Spirit. Indeed, the years spent in prayer, contemplation of the sacred Scripture and serving Him in poverty, chastity, and obedience disposed St Anthony to allow the Holy Spirit to use his talents. Because of his availability to the Holy Spirit, St Anthony’s sermons were impactful to those who heard him preach, as the Spirit led him without preparation. The people knew it was the Spirit that gave him the power to preach in such an anointed manner. This was the same experience of St Paul when he wrote, “That is why it is ‘through him’ that we answer Amen to the praise of God. Remember it is God himself who assures us all, and you, of our standing in Christ, and has anointed us, marking us with his seal and giving us the pledge, the Spirit, that we carry in our hearts.”
Finally, he surrendered his life and mission into the hands of God, believing that God knows what is best. He did not impose his plans on God. In fact, in his life, he was always receptive to God’s will for him. He did not insist on doing what he wanted but he was always open to changes in his life. His desire was to go to Morocco to convert the Muslims but he became sick and had to go to Italy to recuperate. Instead of becoming a missionary, he became a contemplative and a hermit. He accepted God’s plan for him that he was not wanted to evangelize the Moors. And then when he was called to preach against the Albigensians and correct their heresies, he was ever ready to do so. He went wherever the Lord sent him. Isn’t this was what the Lord asks of us in the gospel? He told His disciples, “Whatever house you go into, let your first words be, ‘Peace to this house!’ And if a man of peace lives there, your peace will go and rest on him; if not, it will come back to you. Stay in the same house, taking what food and drink they have to offer, for the labourer deserves his wages; do not move from house to house. Whenever you go into a town where they make you welcome, eat what is set before you. Cure those in it who are sick, and say, “The kingdom of God is very near to you.”’
Truly, God was faithful to St Anthony and the Church made him a patron for lost things because he lost himself in God. God said to David, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one; I have sworn to David my servant: I will establish your dynasty for ever and set up your throne through all ages. He will say to me: ‘You are my father, my God, the rock who saves me.’ I will keep my love for him always; with him my covenant shall last.” So too, God remained faithful to St Anthony because he did not become an obstacle for God’s power to work in and through him.
Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved
Best Practices for Using the Daily Scripture Reflections
- Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
- Daily reflections when archived will lead many to accumulate all the reflections of the week and pray in one sitting. This will compromise your capacity to enter deeply into the Word of God, as the tendency is to read for knowledge rather than a prayerful reading of the Word for the purpose of developing a personal and affective relationship with the Lord.
- It is more important to pray deeply, not read widely. The current reflections of the day would be more than sufficient for anyone who wants to pray deeply and be led into an intimacy with the Lord.
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