Thursday, January 17, 2013

Memorial of Saint Anthony, abbot

(Hebrews 3:7-14; Mark 1:40-45)

The life of St. Anthony is as edifying as it is interesting. He was born into a wealthy Christian family in Egypt. Listening to the gospel story of the rich, young man, Anthony decided not to allow himself to lose eternal life. He sold what he had, gave his money to the poor, and went into the desert to follow Christ as a monk. There he found a monastery from which he emerged, at 105 years of age, to defend orthodox Christianity against the Arian heretics.

Anthony’s feast day gives us opportunity to consider Egypt’s Christian minority today. Descendants of a rich Christian tradition that includes Anthony, Athanasius, and a host of other saints, Egyptian Christians are being persecuted as a religious minority. The country’s recent revolution, well supported by Western powers, has not helped their lot. More than ever, their lives and well as their faith totter under Muslim prejudice.

The situation of Christians in Egypt may not differ much from that of the “Hebrews” to whom the first reading is addressed. They likewise have the difficult task of opening their hearts, as the letter asks of the Hebrews, to their neighbors, some of whom revile them. They too have to show Christ’s love for their persecutors which will win them salvation.