Thursday, 17 January 2019 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony, Abbot (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture telling us about the the healing which the Lord Jesus performed on a person who suffered from leprosy. The leper came up to Him and begged Him to heal his afflictions. The Lord was moved by the faith and the effort showed by the leper, and He healed him from the leprosy, allowing the leper to return to the larger community from where he had been exiled from.

And this is linked to what we have heard in the first reading today, the Epistle that St. Paul wrote to the people and the faithful among the Jewish community, reminding them of the need for conversion of hearts and minds, to turn away from their past sinful ways and actions. It was mentioned how sin is the fruit of rebelliousness of man, who disobeyed God and refused to listen to His will. And the reason for this link, is because sin is also a form of sickness.

If leprosy is a disease that strikes at the flesh, damaging the muscles and the tissues of our body, which eventually can cause death unless it is treated and managed, then sin is also a disease that is far more serious, as it affects very deeply within our beings, corrupting and attacking at the very souls and cores of our whole beings. This corruption will end up causing us, our whole being, to fall deeper and deeper in the trap of sin, and eventually, may fall into eternal damnation.

In order to be healed, it is often that we cannot heal ourselves just by waiting and doing nothing at all. We will need to actively seek for healing, by coming to those who are able to heal us. That was how many of us managed to be healed, because we got our conditions diagnosed properly and then received the right medicine to help us to recover from the illness or sickness as quickly as possible.

In the same way, we also need healing for our sins, to be touched by God Who is able to forgive us from our sins. It is by God’s grace and forgiveness alone that we can be healed from our sins. Unless we humble ourselves before God and seek His love and mercy, it may be very difficult for us to overcome this great obstacle of sin, which prevented us from being fully loved and embraced by God.

And unfortunately, the reason for why it is often difficult for us to seek God’s mercy is because of our own ego and pride, which became a major obstacle in the journey towards our forgiveness. In our ego and pride, we often think that we cannot go wrong, that we know what is best for us. And we are often reluctant to acknowledge our sins because we fear God’s anger, or because we are not sure how we should proceed to settle those sins.

This is caused by our own ignorance and failure to understand and to appreciate the love which God has for each and every one of us. If only we can try to know more about His love and mercy being constantly present in our midst, and accept that generous offer of forgiveness and reconciliation that He had offered to us. Today, we celebrate the feast of a holy man and devout servant of God, whose life can probably be an inspiration for us on how we should become closer in love for God.

St. Anthony the Abbot, also known as St. Anthony the Great lived during the mid fourth century after the birth of Christ, as one of the famous early Christian monks, who helped to popularise the concept of monasticism among the faithful. He lived in then the Roman province of Egypt, born to a wealthy landowning family but then chose to leave everything behind and sold his properties to feed the poor, and went to the desert to be a monk.

St. Anthony lived a life totally devoted to the Lord in seclusion and prayer, and wandered the desert and the caves for many years, leading a very holy and exemplary life. However, the devil did not remain passive amidst all of those years, and actively tried to attack and tempt St. Anthony by various means. It was told that many evil spirits and demons physically and spiritually struck at the holy man, with many temptations. But St. Anthony overcame all of them with prayer.

The holiness and dedication that St. Anthony the Great had shown all of us should become an inspiration on how we should live our own lives in this world. There are indeed plenty of temptations and pressures for us to follow the ways of the world, that is the way of Satan, and not the way of the Lord. And it is indeed difficult to resist those temptations, which will come at any time and from various sources, just as those evil spirits and tempters that attacked St. Anthony had done.

However, we can follow the example shown by St. Anthony, in his prayerful dedication to the Lord, that is his constant and ever-fervent connection with his God, Who is his anchor, strength and protection. With the Lord by his side, St. Anthony was able to resist the temptations of the devil and all of his wicked forces, and became a light of inspiration for countless others among the faithful throughout the subsequent centuries and millennia, to this very day.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to walk in the footsteps of this holy man of God? We are called in our own respective capacities, in whatever we do in life, to bring glory to God by aligning ourselves closer to Him, and not to succumb to the many temptations of life. We are called to love the Lord ever more, and open ourselves to receive His love and mercy, and not to harden our hearts and minds against Him. That is why we need to pray more, and have good quality of prayerful life from now on, each and every days of our life.

May God, our loving Father, continue to love us and bless us in all of our deeds, and may He continue to guide us in our journey of life, so that in everything we say and do, we will always glorify His Name, and walk in His ways. St. Anthony the Great, holy Abbot and servant of God, pray for us sinners. Amen.

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