Memorial of Saint Anthony, abbot
(Hebrews 3:7-14; Mark 1:40-45)
The gospel today shows Jesus changing places with the leper. He is an insider – of good Jewish lineage and righteous according to the Law. He can go anywhere in Israel that he pleases. Yet he freely becomes an outsider. When he heals the leper, his fame becomes so great that he cannot go anywhere without being mobbed. Meanwhile the leper, who cannot mingle with people because of his disease, becomes an insider. After Jesus touches him, he is free to enter city and village.
We can see a similar dynamic in the story of St. Anthony, the monk. He was born an insider with plenty of resources to do whatever he wished. Yet he chose to recluse himself in a desert hovel thereby making himself an outsider. He was giving witness to Christ so that those excluded by inordinate self-love from the promises of Christ might take note and reform. They would then become insiders of God’s family.
We are called to give similar witness. We do not have to go into the desert, but we must make some sacrifice of self for the benefit of others. The sacrifice certainly includes paying less attention to our own needs and more to those of others. We might listen to others more than speak to them. Or we might make a habit of complimenting those who lack self-confidence. In these simple ways we enable others to become insiders of God’s family.