Memorial of Saint Anthony, Abbot
(I Samuel 17:32-33.37.40-51; Mark 3:1-6)
Aristotle taught that a soldier best exemplifies the virtue of courage. He saw the warrior’s overcoming the fear of death to fight for the homeland as the essence of bravery. In today’s readings his ideal would be realized in David who takes up the challenge of Goliath to defend the honor of Israel. Thomas Aquinas gave the model of courage a different flavor. Since he understood union with God as the ultimate goal in life, martyrdom became the highest way to practice courage. In today’s gospel Jesus demonstrates such courage as he heals the invalid on the Sabbath despite the vicious contempt the cure will draw from the Pharisees.
Anthony of the Desert, today’s patron saint, exemplifies another kind of courage. He gave up everything he had to live most of his life in solitude. This meant overcoming the fear not of death but of living an unfulfilled life. He forsook the commonly satisfying experiences of family, comforts, and human accompaniment to deepen his spiritual relationship with the Lord. In doing so, Anthony provided Christianity a model of holiness.