Fr Paul reads from the Gospel of Mark (2: 23-28) in which Jesus tells the Pharisees, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So, the Son of Man is master even of the Sabbath.” Afterwards, Fr Paul will share a little about the life of St Anthony of Egypt whose memorial we celebrate today.
Fr Paul says St Anthony is the originator of the monastic life. He was born in Egypt and when his parents died, he listened to the word of God and gave all his belongings to the poor. He then went out into the wilderness to begin a life of penitence, living in absolute poverty, praying, meditating, and supporting himself by manual work. He suffered many temptations, both physical and spiritual, but he overcame them. Disciples gathered round him, attracted by his wisdom, moderation, and holiness. He gave support to the victims of the persecutions that took place. He also helped St Athanasius in his fight against the Arians. Fr Paul says, the Gospels are full of wise sayings of Jesus that seem to be ignored, and one of the most poignant of these was when Jesus met the young man who asked over and over again, ‘What must I do to have eternal life?’. In response, Jesus told him that if he wanted to be perfect, he would have to sell all that he had and give the money to the poor. As we know, the young man went away sad because he was very rich. So, Jesus tells this young man what he has to do, and the young man is afraid to do it. And yet… just 250 years later, St Anthony hears this story, and he does give away all he has and becomes the founder of monasticism. And then again, over 1,000 years later, St Francis of Assisi hears the same story and gives away his possessions (and even some of his father’s) and revolutionises Christianity again. St Anthony lived to be over a hundred years old and died in 356. Fr Paul says today we pray, especially, St Anthony of Egypt, Pray for us!