January 17 2012
Memorial of St. Anthony, Abbot
By Beth DeCristofaro
(Samuel thought,) "Surely the LORD's anointed is here before him." But the LORD said to Samuel: "Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, because I have rejected him. Not as man sees does God see, because he sees the appearance but the LORD looks into the heart." (1 Samuel 16:6-7)
Then (Jesus) said to them, "The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath. That is why the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath." (Mark 2:27-28)
Saint Anthony, you spoke of the importance of persevering in our faith and our practice. Help us to wake up each day with new zeal for the Christian life and a desire to take the next challenge instead of just sitting still. Amen. (www.catholic.org)
During my Cursillo weekend, back in 2001 (and on every weekend I have joined as team member) I have heard – and indeed said myself – “I’m just not worthy. Why would God love me?” This fear, insecurity, self-debasement still afflicts me off and on, especially on those days when I am particularly out-of-sorts with myself. When I am feeling most put-upon by my responsibilities. When I am feeling most inadequate for the duties of my job. When I am feeling holier-than-thou as wife and mother. When I am feeling self-righteous as I identify the “injustices” perpetrated by others which I, of course, would never do.
Actually, the question is a good one. Why would God love someone so prone to sin and failure? Today’s Gospel and the life of St. Anthony the Abbot give us interesting insight. Anthony was an ascetic, choosing a holy life after hearing the words of the Gospel which motivated him to give up his wealth. His life story is full of struggles with temptation and his constant passion to live solely reliant on God. In each victory over sin or distraction, Anthony recalled himself to the presence of God. His life, recorded in autobiography, was an inspiration for many to choose a Christian path.
Jesus reminded the Pharisees that God defines holiness. And God defines love. God loves so unconditionally that we can only reject, God doesn’t withhold. So our question is answered: God loves this crabby, selfish, incomplete, struggling, kind, faithful woman because God created me to love. You too.
St. Anthony chose a life of self-denial to be present to God. Thomas Merton chose solitude but wrote and spoke sharing the joy of his journey to and with God. “It is a glorious destiny to be a member of the human race although it is a race dedicated to many absurdities and one which makes many terrible mistakes; yet with all that, God Himself gloried in becoming a member of the human race! … we are because of Him who dwells in us. But precisely in Him and by Him we are deeply involved by compassion: yet compassion is useless without freedom.” [i]
St. Anthony believed that acting on a hope or belief brought that belief deeper into his own heart and brought him ever closer to God. What can we act upon, by relying on God, perhaps something challenging, new or untested, that will bring ourselves closer to God? We will find love there.
[i] Thomas Merton: A Book of Hours, Kathleen Deignan, edt., Sorin Books, Notre Dame, IN, 2007, pp.52, 56.