Feast Day of Anthony of Padua (d. 1231)
June 13 2012
Fr. Dale Matson
“Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants! But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” Peter said, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for all?” And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful. And that servant who knew his master's will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more. “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! (Luke 12:35-50, ESV)
Taken as a whole, our Gospel passage for the Feast Day of St. Anthony of Padua describes both the changing roles that Christ adopts and our need for continual preparedness and vigilance. Additionally, I believe this passage is for the leaders of His church. Not only are they to be in a state of readiness, they are held accountable for their position, their gifts and how they treat those under their care.
Just as Christ is prepared to serve His servants who keep watch and await His return, He cautions us that He will come when He is least expected, like a thief. Peter asked the following question, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for all?” Up until that point Jesus was referring to His desciples. His response does not directly address Peter’s question but is mainly focused once again on the church leaders. “And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time?” This is a reference to His disciples feeding His sheep. When Peter betrayed Jesus, Jesus asked Peter after His resurrection, if Peter loved Him. When Peter said, “Yes”, Jesus said, “Then feed My sheep”.
I am no longer surprised and too frequently disappointed by the false shepherds among us. Christ told us in the Gospel lesson that they will be held accountable both for their talents that were improperly employed and for not doing our Lord’s will when they knew better. In short, the church leaders will be held to a higher standard of accountability and punished more severely than those they lead.
Personally, I know that every careless word I speak, every ego serving gesture I make, robs Christ’s sheep of the bread of life, Jesus Christ. I pray that I will not fall prey to my own ego’s continual need for applause. It is a disgrace how many church leaders have abused their power, destroyed the trust given them, used their position for selfish desires and manipulated the sheep for their own benifit. No wonder Christ warns so often about accountability.
The Gospel passage is particularly suited to St. Anthony who was critical of those clergy who were not dedicated and the rich who oppressed the peasants. When unexpectedly called upon, St. Anthony was able to preach with “grace and power” his first sermon. He was known as "The Hammer of the Heretics" and spent the remaining years of his short life preaching. His preaching was an exemplary example of feeding the sheep and loving Christ.