17 January 2012
St. Anthony the Great—
Father of All Monks
1 Sam. 16: 1-13
The call of David – selected over his elder brothers who were all passed over – anticipates Our Lord’s teaching: “The stone that was rejected has become the cornerstone.” The ways of God are not man’s ways, and God will not be fit into any rule or principle we can articulate – and possess, and control. Still, His favored way of proceeding seems to be something like the phrase “preferential option for the poor.”
At a time when the early Christian Church was beginning to become heavily wedded with worldly power, God raised up a man to start a movement that would be at the heart of Christian life for the next 1,500 years. St. Anthony heard Christ’s words and, rather than heading into the marketplace, he took the opposite road, heading into the wilderness, and leading a vast spiritual host who would leave all to follow Christ, in silence and solitude. While the Church became rich and powerful, these men and women sought be become poor and powerless in imitation of Christ – and when their own monasteries became rich and powerful, God would raise up reforming figures to lead a remnant further into the wilderness of His mysterious will.
The monastic life remains a treasure at the heart of the Church. But each of us is called to follow Christ into various wildernesses: the office, the headquarters, any human community – the family. The heart itself is a wild place of many spirits, some of them hostile to God and His beloved. Let us join St. Anthony and the monks of all times and places in “keeping vigil” wherever the Lord has placed us. With His help, the hostile desert itself becomes an oasis.
Father Raymond Gawronski, SJ