Tuesday, 17 January 2017 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony, Abbot (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in today’s Scripture passages we heard first of all from the Epistle to the Hebrews, which urged everyone to remember God’s promise and covenant, which He had made with His people out of His love for them. We are all reminded of God’s faith in us, and we are all called to place our trust and hope in Him.

He has sworn by Himself, to assure us that He will deliver us from our sins and from our troubles. He Himself has assured us that He will deliver us and free us from the chains and bondage to sin. We have nothing to fear but to trust completely in Him, because while the world and its words are untrustworthy, and while mankind are untrustworthy in our dealings, but God alone can be completely trusted, for He is honest and just, and having sworn by Himself, He cannot deny Himself.

But it is rather us mankind who had not been faithful as I have mentioned, because we always try to find excuses and other alternatives, instead of obeying God. We ended up trusting in our own human instincts and judgments, rather than obeying and listening to the Lord our God. That was why in the Gospel passage today, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were rebuked by Jesus, as He had also done in various other occasions throughout the Gospels, because of their refusal to believe in what He had to tell them, that their ways were wrong.

They were the guardians of the laws of God as passed down to them from the time of Moses, down through many generations. But throughout those times, the essence of the Law became lost, and people became servants to the laws of God, not knowing what they were all about. Instead of obeying the Law because it was right to serve and please the Lord with their obedience, many of them enforced the laws and follow them for the sake of doing it.

For example, on the well known issue of the day of the Sabbath and its observance among the Israelites. The Sabbath was instituted by the Lord at the time when Israel went out from Egypt and were travelling through the desert towards the Promised Land. It was meant as a holy day dedicated to the Lord, as a day when all the people of Israel should focus themselves and their whole attention to the Lord.

And why was that so? That is because those Israelites have not been faithful to God in many occasions, they grumbled and disobeyed His laws and commandments as soon as after God had liberated and brought them out from the land of Egypt. God wanted to save them from their rebelliousness, and He wanted to discipline them by the means of those laws, but never had He intended for them to be oppressed by those measures.

Unfortunately that was what the Pharisees did, burdening the people with the many observances and obligations to the Law, by one count approximately six hundred and thirteen of them in total, and yet, many of these were human made laws that did not bring about greater understanding of the true meaning of God’s Law, which in fact was about God’s love for us all, so that He gave us those guiding oaths to help us in our path.

That was why Jesus told them all about how the king David in the past broke the law of the Sabbath because he and his soldiers, his followers were hungry. He ate the bread that were supposed to be offered for the Lord, as a form of sustenance to support them after their long journey. And the high priest then, Abiathar, allowed them to do so, even though that was supposedly against the Law.

It is because the Law was indeed meant to help mankind and to assist them on their path towards salvation, and not to oppress them. As Jesus mentioned, it was the Law which was made for man, and not man for the Law. It was because of love that God had given His instructions to mankind, in order to save them and to liberate them from the wrong paths they were following.

That is why, in all things, as Christians, all of us ought to remember that first of all, God wants each and every one of us to be saved. He wants us all to live and not to perish. We must not close the path towards salvation to those who are in need of it, by looking down on sinners and by refusing to welcome them back when they come to seek God’s forgiveness and grace. Let us remember that we ourselves are sinners and are in need of God’s mercy.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us today reflect on the examples and the life of St. Anthony the Abbot, the famous saint and religious who was known also as St. Anthony the Great, a renowned monk and religious from the Roman era Egypt known to be the father of monasticism and one of the first to commit himself in a contemplative life filled with prayer and devotion to God.

St. Anthony left behind everything in his former life, and he spent the rest of his life in contemplative prayer and commitment to God. He lived in the wilderness, much as St. John the Baptist had done in the past, shunning the comforts of life and leaving behind all worldly concerns. He also ministered to the people by helping the poor and the communities nearby where he lived, and called them to a life of holiness and devotion to God.

The devil often tempted St. Anthony, and it was told that he even tried hard to undermine all of St. Anthony’s works, and attacked him in various occasions, and yet St. Anthony persevered through all of them via a life committed to God in devotion and prayer. He overcame the devil by the power of prayer and piety, committing his whole being to God. From all of his examples, we truly should be inspired by his dedication and discipline in his life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we all live in a world filled with many temptations, many of which are trying to keep us away from attaining God’s salvation. The devil is always at work, trying to undermine our progress and by pulling us away with his lies and falsehoods. This is where we need to be careful, that we should not fall into his traps. We must learn to resist the temptations of this world and commit ourselves in the same way as the holy saints, including that of St. Anthony, had done.

May the Lord help us in all of our endeavours, so that through all of our good and committed works, we may put the Lord as the focus of all our actions, and indeed, as the focus of our lives. May the Lord bless us and keep us, and may He strengthen in our hearts, the faith which we ought to have for Him, and help us to be faithful to God, just as He Himself had been truly faithful to us. Let us all help one another on our path to the Lord, and keep ourselves worthy of Him at all times. May God bless us all. Amen.

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