Friday, January 17, 2020

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 a battle with the evil spirits of pride and concupiscence.  If they win, they will have peace with God, nature, self, and others.  Today the Church celebrates the man credited with founding Christian monasticism – Anthony of the Desert. 

As a youth Anthony heard the gospel of the rich man who asked Jesus how to inherit eternal life.  Jesus answered that one has to sell all that he owned, give the money to the poor, and follow him.  The man did not find the wherewithal to fulfill Jesus’ prescription, but Anthony did.  He sold his inherited property, provided for his sister, and gave the rest of the money away.  Then he proceeded to the desert where he exhibited holiness, charity and wisdom.  Anthony’s difficult life did not curtail longevity.  He died at one hundred and four years old.

It is not necessary to enter a monastery to battle pride and concupiscence.  We must engage these nemeses every day of our lives.  However, the struggle cannot be won without asceticism or self-denial.  We have to let go of what others think about us and what are desires tell us we need.  In their places we should make sacrifices for God and others, particularly the poor.