Saturday, January 17 ~ First Week in Ordinary Time
Saint Antony of Egypt, Abbott; “The Great”, “The Father of Monks”
Holy Gospel: Mark 2:13-17 Jesus went out along the sea. All the crowd came to him and he taught them. As he passed by, he saw Levi, son of Alphaeus, sitting at the customs post. Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed Jesus. While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners sat with Jesus and his disciples; for there were many who followed him. Some scribes who were Pharisees saw that Jesus was eating with sinners and tax collectors and said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus heard this and said to them, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”
Meditation: When the Pharisees challenged his unorthodox behavior in eating with public sinners, Jesus’ defense was quite simple. A doctor doesn’t need to visit healthy people; instead he goes to those who are sick. Jesus likewise sought out those in the greatest need. A true physician seeks healing of the whole person – body, mind, and spirit. Jesus came as the divine physician and good shepherd to care for his people and to restore them to wholeness of life. The orthodox were so preoccupied with their own practice of religion that they neglected to help the very people who needed care. Their religion was selfish because they didn’t want to have anything to do with people not like themselves. Jesus stated his mission in unequivocal terms: I came not to call the righteous, but to call sinners. Ironically the orthodox were as needy as those they despised.
Prayer: O God, who brought the Abbot Saint Antony to serve you by a wondrous way of life in the desert, grant, through his intercession, that, denying ourselves, we may always love you above all things. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Contemplation: Many people were drawn to Jesus, including the unwanted and the unlovable, such as the lame, the blind, and the lepers, as well as the homeless such as widows and orphans. But public sinners, like the town prostitutes and corrupt tax collectors, were also drawn to Jesus. In calling Matthew to be one of his disciples, Jesus picked one of the unlikeliest of men – a tax collector who by profession was despised by the people. Why did the religious leaders find fault with Jesus for making friends with sinners and tax collectors like Matthew? The orthodox Jews had a habit of dividing everyone into two groups: those who rigidly kept the law and its minute regulations and those who did not. They latter were treated like second class citizens. The orthodox scrupulously avoided their company, refused to do business with them, refused to give or receive anything from them, refused to intermarry, and avoided any form of entertainment with them, including table fellowship. Jesus’ association with the latter, especially with tax collectors and sinners, shocked the sensibilities of these orthodox people.
About Saint Anthony: Saint Antony (251-356), the Patriarch of all monks, was born at Coma in upper Egypt, at the age of 20 he gave away his property (which was considerable) to the poor and lived as a hermit near his native place. About the year 305 he established a community at Fayum and another shortly after at Pispir. Thus he was the first to establish the religious life as we know it today, by gathering together large groups of hermits into loose communities. Soon he became famous throughout Egypt and beyond, and was in great demand as an advisor by people of every rank. He was a personal friend of Saint Athanasius and hi staunch supporter against the Arians, whom he arraigned as heretics in a public sermon preached at Alexandria at the invitation of Athanasius, when he was ninety years old. Athanasius himself became St. Antony’s biographer. St. Antony died in his hermitage on Mt. Kolzim, near the Red Sea. In art he is frequently shown with a T-shaped cross and a pig. The latter, perhaps originally the symbol of evil, became associated with a privilege of the Hospital Brothers of St. Antony founded in the 17th century. St. Antony’s fire was apparently and epidemic form of erysipelas against which the saint’s intercession was invoked.
Scripture passages (NAB translation) courtesy of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops;
prayers are from The Roman Missal, Catholic Book Publishing, 2011;
information about saints, solemnities, feasts and memorials courtesy of the Catholic Culture web site.