Tuesday, June 13, 2006

It's the City that makes the Saints

(Feast of St. Anthony of Padua-Year B;This homily was given 13 June, 2006, at Our Lady of Mercy, East Greenwich, R.I.; read Matthew 5:13-16)

The feast of St. Anthony of Padua is unique not only in the saint himself, but in his very name, as well. Usually when a saint is referenced by a city it is because he or she originated from that City. We refer to St. Francis of Assisi and St. Catherine of Siena because they were born and raised in those cities.

Not so with St. Anthony of Padua. St. Anthony was not born in the Italian city of Padua. In fact, he was not born in Italy at all. St. Anthony is from Portugal, and the city of Lisbon. Yet we do not refer to him as St. Anthony of Portugal or St. Anthony of Lisbon.

The reason for that has everything to do with the response of the people of Padua to the Gospel message. St. Anthony, a Franciscan missionary priest, brought the Good News to the people of Padua, and they were wide open to God’s word and the call to repentance.

It is said that, in response to the preaching and ministry of St. Anthony, people who had long been at odds with each other were soon reconciled and lived in peace. Those who owed large sums of money, which they had no intention of repaying, suddenly brought their debts before St. Anthony and acknowledged their need to set things right.

The whole city was transformed. Padua became a city very much like the one described by Christ in the Gospel this morning:

A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.
—Mathew 5:14-16

Today’s feast and the Gospel remind us that it is not the saint that makes the city; it’s the city that makes the saints. It is not St. Francis and St. Claire that give us Assisi. It is Assisi that gives them to us. And it is the City of Padua that gives us St. Anthony for today’s feast.

How is God calling us to be that "city on a mountain?" We are called to respond with a radical love to the remarkable message of grace and forgiveness given to us by God. Who do we need to be reconciled with? How are we called to live more completely for Christ, to pray more fervently, to love more intensely in this city, our town, our parish community?

It’s the city that makes the saints. Might our response to the Gospel become the rich seedbed of the saints here in this "city on a mountain," as we respond to Christ’s call to be the light of the world, and the salt of the earth.