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Finding Forgiveness on Saint Anthony

Finding Forgiveness on Saint Anthony's Feast - Weekday Homily Video

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Today's Mass reading gets personal really fast. "If you bring your gift to the altar and remember that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there, go and reconcile with your brother, and then come and offer your gift." 

Reflecting on the gospel today, I imagine myself sitting and listening among the disciples, thinking I do well in keeping the commandments. The law seems straightforward, and I'm confident I will meet the challenge of abiding by it. Knowing that I have settled into a comfort zone, I imagine Jesus looking at me and saying, "No, not so fast." I can hear him telling me that it is not enough to merely adhere to the letter of the law; interpreting the commandments like a checklist is not going to cut it—there is more to it than that.



Heaven or Hell

There is a story prevalent among the Zen Buddhists about a Samurai - a military tribe in Japan. A quarrelsome Samurai demanded a Zen master to teach him the concept of heaven and hell. The Zen master replied with scorn, "You are nothing but a ruffian, and I can't waste my time on the likes of you."

The disgraced Samurai got into a rage, pulled his sword from its sheath, and screamed at the Zen master, "For your arrogance, I could chop you into pieces." The master calmly replied, "Son, that is hell." Startled at the truth in what the master pointed out about the anger that had overtaken him, the Samurai cooled down, put the sword back into its sheath, thanked the master for the insight, and begged for forgiveness. "And that," said the master, “is heaven." 

There is no doubt that those we love most are also the ones most capable of hurting us deeply, and vice versa. What dagger could penetrate deeper than an unkind word from a loved one?  


Forgiveness and Reconciliation


It is important to note the differences between forgiveness and reconciliation. Reconciliation is mutual. Both parties admit their wrongdoings, repent, ask for forgiveness, and forgive. Then, both parties sincerely work toward repairing the relationship and rebuilding damaged trust.  

It is, however, possible to forgive unilaterally. It lets me let go of revenge, hatred, and "get even"; it lets go of the need to see that person suffer as I did. It releases their influence over my emotions, sleep, appetite, and life. I regain my power, free my heart, and let the Spirit flow freely through me. Depending on how grievous the hurt is, I need to repeat the process and reaffirm the forgiveness repeatedly. Even after forgiving, something may happen that brings up old hurts. 

It's tough work, but Jesus says I should not come to the altar unless I do it. Remember the Samurai and the Zen master: To forgive is heaven. To err is human, and to forgive is divine. 


Saint Anthony's Miracle


And now I have a story about the saint of the day Saint Antony of Padua, which a dear friend of mine forwarded to me this morning. 

Some Catholics write the letters “S.A.G” (St. Anthony Guide) on the outside of their envelopes and packages before sending them. It’s a way to invoke St. Anthony to ensure the mail’s safe delivery.  What is the miraculous story in which this practice is rooted? Through the intercession of St. Anthony of Padua, a miracle took place in Spain involving the delivery of an urgent letter.  

According to Letters from the Saints, a Spanish merchant named Antonio Dante left his home in 1729 to travel to Lima, Peru for business. His wife, who had remained in Spain, wrote letters to him over the course of many months without receiving any reply.  

Filled with worry and in dire financial straits, she wrote once again to her husband and brought the letter to the Church of St. Francis at Oviedo. There she placed the letter in the palm of a statue of St. Anthony of Padua and prayed fervently that he would deliver the letter to her husband. “St. Anthony, I pray to thee,” she said. “Let this letter reach him and obtain for me a speedy reply.” 

The following day, she returned to the church to find her letter still in St. Anthony's hand. As she began to weep, a Franciscan brother saw her and approached to tell her that he had tried to remove the letter from the statue's hand but was unable to do so. When she took hold of the letter to remove it, she discovered that it was not the same one she had left the day before but a new letter from her husband! 

Saint Anthony of Padua, Pray for us. 


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About Father Boby John, C.S.C.

Father Boby John, C.S.C., ordained a priest in the Congregation of Holy Cross in 2008, worked as a pastor and as an educator with tribal populations in Northeast India for thirteen years. Originally from Kerala, India, Father Boby grew up with three siblings. He is a dedicated and detailed educationist with experience in educational leadership. He is currently working as an executive assistant at the world headquarters of Holy Cross Family Ministries, North Easton, Massachusetts.