17 Jan – Memorial for St. Anthony, abbot
Following the death of his parents when he was about 20, St. Anthony (251-356) insured that his sister completed her education, then sold his house, furniture, and the land he owned, gave the proceeds to the poor, joined the anchorites who lived nearby, and moved into an empty sepulchre. At 35, he moved alone to the desert, living 20 years in an abandoned fort.
Anthony barricaded the place for solitude, but admirers broke in. He miraculously healed people, and agreed to be the spiritual counsellor of others. His recommendation was to base life on the gospel. Word spread, and so many disciples arrived that Anthony founded two monasteries on the Bile — one at Pispir, one at Arsinoe. Many of those who lived near him supported themselves by making baskets and brushes, and from that came his patronage of those trades.
Anthony briefly left his seclusion in 311, going to Alexandria to fight Arianism, and to comfort the victims of Maximinus’ persecution. At some point in his life, he met with his sister again. She, too, had withdrawn from the world, and directed a community of nuns. Anthony retired to the desert, living in a cave on Mount Colzim.
Descriptions paint him as uniformly modest and courteous. His example led many to take up the monastic life, and to follow his way. Friend late in life of St. Paul the Hermit, and buried the aged anchorite, leading to his patronage of gravediggers. His biography was written by his friend, St. Athanasius.
His relationship with pigs and patronage of swineheards is a little complicated. Skin diseases were sometimes treated with applications of pork fat, which reduced inflammation and itching. As Anthony’s intervention aided in the same conditions, he was shown in art accompanied by a pig. People who saw the art work, but did not have it explained, thought there was a direct connection between Anthony and pigs – and people who worked with swine took him as their patron.
- Patron Saint Index
The Holy Spirit says: If only you would listen to him today; do not harden your hearts, as happened in the Rebellion, on the Day of Temptation in the wilderness, when your ancestors challenged me and tested me, though they had seen what I could do for forty years. That was why I was angry with that generation and said: How unreliable these people who refuse to grasp my ways! And so, in anger, I swore that not one would reach the place of rest I had for them. Take care, brothers, that there is not in any one of your community a wicked mind, so unbelieving as to turn away from the living God. Every day, as long as this ‘today’ lasts, keep encouraging one another so that none of you is hardened by the lure of sin, because we shall remain co-heirs with Christ only if we keep a grasp on our first confidence right to the end.
A leper came to Jesus and pleaded on his knees: ‘If you want to’ he said ‘you can cure me.’ Feeling sorry for him, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him. ‘Of course I want to!’ he said. ‘Be cured!’ And the leprosy left him at once and he was cured. Jesus immediately sent him away and sternly ordered him, ‘Mind you say nothing to anyone, but go and show yourself to the priest, and make the offering for your healing prescribed by Moses as evidence of your recovery.’ The man went away, but then started talking about it freely and telling the story everywhere, so that Jesus could no longer go openly into any town, but had to stay outside in places where nobody lived. Even so, people from all around would come to him.
“Of course I want to!”
“Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him. ‘Of course I want to.’ ”
Regardless of our condition, our Lord wants to heal us! Jesus does not reject anyone. Our God’s love is available to all who seek him, just like the leper in today’s Gospel, with sincerity of heart and with ferventness. Despite his leprosy, Jesus laid his hands on the leper and he is made clean immediately. Nothing is too unpleasing nor too insurmountable for our Lord!
The first reading reminds us not to harden our hearts but to grasp with confidence the promises given to us by God. Take heed not to harden our hearts by the lure of sin, the last thing we should do is to think that we are unworthy! That’s the devil’s deceptive ways to have us turn away from God. But Jesus, in his ministry, shows us time and time again His power and compassion. He WILL heal us of all our transgressions! That is why, it is important for us to “keep encouraging one another … because we shall remain co-heirs with Christ.”
Let us claim His victory with confidence and claim our birthright as co-heirs with Christ and admonish all fears. With this confidence, we march forth in our ministry on this earth with heads held high, his love as our breastplate to soldier on for His purpose and His mission as a community!
The importance of community cannot be downplayed, as we celebrate the feast day of St. Anthony, who was known as a recluse during his ministry; even his work on earth impacts many and was supported by many! We, too, need our brothers and sisters, our clergy to inspire, hearten and remind us of our mission on earth. That has always been God’s plan, we do not have to journey alone. And our way of being as Christians touches others as well.
(Today’s Oxygen by Lorraine Wong)
Prayer: Dear Lord, the battle has been won by Jesus coming as our Lord and Savior, and by his death and resurrection. Nothing is too dire for you, let us never forget our inheritance and to journey on in life victoriously as winners already! Proud of your love, proud of our inheritance to do your will as you wish.
Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, words cannot express the profound gratefulness we have for you. Whatever we have to offer you seems so minute in the grand scheme of things, but we know you are our loving Father and will be pleased with our efforts. So we thank you Father, from the depths of our soul for all that you have done for us and for all that is to be unfold.