Friday, January 17, 2014

Memorial of Saint Anthony of the Desert, abbot

(I Samuel 8:4-7.10-22a; Mark 2:1-12)

Monks are often thought of as men in retreat.  But they do not see themselves in that way.  Rather they recognize their solitary life as enabling them to battle with the evil spirits of pride and concupiscence.  If they win the upper hand, they will have peace with God, nature, the self, and – when in community –others.  Today the Church celebrates the man credited with founding Christian monasticism – Anthony of the Desert. 

As a young man Anthony received his calling to be a monk as he heard the gospel account of the rich, young man who asked Jesus what he might do to inherit eternal life.  Jesus answered that he would have to sell all that he had, give the money to the poor, and then follow him.  The man did not find the wherewithal to fulfill Jesus’ prescription, but Anthony did.  At Jesus’ suggestion he sold his inherited property, provided for his sister then gave the rest of the money away, and proceeded to the desert.  There he witnessed Christ by holiness, charity and wisdom.  If Anthony’s life was difficult, it was also long.  He lived to be one hundred and four years old.

It is not necessary, of course, to enter a monastery to do battle with pride and concupiscence.  We must engage these nemeses every day of our lives.  The struggle cannot be won without asceticism; that is self-denial.  We should let go of caring what others may think about us and what are desires tell us we need.  In their place we need to allow the gospel fill us with hope.