Sunday, January 16, 2011


“The Temptation of
St Anthony Abbot”
by Annibale Carracci, 1597-98 



Biographical Information about St. Anthony[1]

Readings for the Memorial of St. Anthony

Readings and Commentary:

Ephesians 6:10-13, 18

Brothers and sisters:
Draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power.
Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm
against the tactics of the Devil.
For our struggle is not with flesh and blood
but with the principalities, with the powers,
with the world rulers of this present darkness,
with the evil spirits in the heavens.
Therefore, put on the armor of God,
that you may be able to resist on the evil day
and, having done everything, to hold your ground.
With all prayer and supplication,
pray at every opportunity in the Spirit.
To that end, be watchful with all perseverance and supplication
for all the holy ones.

Commentary on
Eph 6:10-13, 18

This passage, continuing St. Paul’s exhortation on building up faith is “a general exhortation to courage and prayer. Drawing upon the imagery and ideas of
Isaiah 11:5; 59:16-17; and Wisdom 5:17-23, Paul describes the Christian in terms of the dress (armor) and equipment of Roman soldiers. He observes, however, that the Christian's readiness for combat is not directed against human beings but against the spiritual powers of evil (see also Ephesians 1:21; 2:2; 3:10). Unique importance is placed upon prayer.” [3]
CCC: Eph 6:18-20 2636; Eph 6:18 1073, 1174, 2742

Psalm 16:1-2a and 5, 7-8, 11
R. (5) You are my inheritance, O Lord.

Keep me, O God, for in you I take refuge;
I say to the LORD, "My Lord are you."
O LORD, my allotted portion and my cup,
you it is who hold fast my lot.

R. You are my inheritance, O Lord.
I bless the LORD who counsels me;
even at night my heart exhorts me.
I set the LORD ever before me;
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.

R. You are my inheritance, O Lord.
You will show me the path to life,
fullness of joys in your presence,
the delights at your right hand forever.

R. You are my inheritance, O Lord. 
Commentary on
Ps 16:1-2a and 5, 7-8, 11

Psalm 16 is an individual hymn of praise.  The psalmist prays that God will shield the faithful from harm and expresses confidence in the Lord’s salvation. The passage closes with praise for God’s loving mercy.  This selection is structured to support the Pauline ideal of placing God first in the life of the faithful. Their greatest possession is being loved by God and loving God in return.

Matthew 19:16-26

Someone approached Jesus and said,
"Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?"
Jesus answered him, "Why do you ask me about the good?
There is only One who is good.
If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments."
He asked him, "Which ones?"
And Jesus replied, "You shall not kill;
you shall not commit adultery;
you shall not steal;
you shall not bear false witness;
honor your father and your mother;
and you shall love your neighbor as yourself."
The young man said to him,
"All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?"
Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be perfect, go,
sell what you have and give to the poor,
and you will have treasure in heaven.
Then come, follow me."
When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad,
for he had many possessions.
Then Jesus said to his disciples,
"Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich
to enter the Kingdom of heaven.
Again I say to you,
it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle
than for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God."
When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and said,
"Who then can be saved?"
Jesus looked at them and said,
"For men this is impossible,
but for God all things are possible."

Commentary on
Mt 19:16-26

Jesus’ encounter with the rich young man is also captured in Mark 10:17-31. In St. Matthew’s account, the young man asks Jesus what “good” he must do to attain “eternal life?” (This is equivalent to entering into life or being saved, as used in other parts of St. Matthew’s Gospel – see Matthew 19:17 and Matthew 16:25
.) Following the Lord’s grammatical clarification (“there is only One who is good,a statement implying only God possesses the ability to act without sin, completely good), the young man asks which commandments he must follow.
“The first five commandments cited are from the Decalogue (see
Exodus 20:12-16; Deuteronomy 5:16-20). Matthew omits Mark's "you shall not defraud" (Matthew 10:19; see Deuteronomy 24:14) and adds Leviticus 19:18. This combination of commandments of the Decalogue with Leviticus 19:18 is partially the same as Paul's enumeration of the demands of Christian morality in Romans 13:9.”[4]

The disciples were dismayed at the asceticism required and asked the Lord who could be saved, since all people, to some degree, desire comforts and possessions. The Lord then provides the answer that for God, all things are possible, and that through their faith in Him they will find their reward.

CCC: Mt 19:16-19 2052; Mt 19:16-17 2075; Mt 19:18 2400; Mt 19:21 2053; Mt 19:23-29 2053; Mt 19:23-24 226; Mt 19:26 276, 308, 1058

 It is reported in the Gospel proclaimed on St. Anthony’s feast day: “ ‘If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." This statement is thought to be the very one that launched him into the legendary ascetic life he followed. It is the life that drew so many people to him that he is now known as the Father of Christian Monasticism. His incredible story has drawn both admirers and skeptics to look at him and question what grace God chose to bestow upon him that gave him such inner strength and holiness. He reportedly lived to be 105 years old (250-355 AD) and took up his call when he was twenty years old (at the death of his parents who were wealthy members of Egyptian origin).

Those of us who live and practice our Christian faith today might find it difficult to understand what would lead a person to become a hermit, completely shut off from human contact for extended periods of time. We would wonder at the mystic demons St. Anthony fought that reportedly left him near death at times. What inner spiritual strength must have been drawn from his continual search for the inner Christ, the indwelling Holy Spirit that so consumed him.

Ultimately we see what God did with his heroic virtue. Though St. Anthony shunned comfort and human presence, people were drawn to him, to learn from his contemplative life and to draw strength from the discipline he practiced. His example and his words advanced the cause of holiness in a difficult period of Church history. At need, he spoke out, supporting authentic Church teaching in the face of serious opposition, and gave strength to those in need during the persecution of 311.

We celebrate his gift to us on this day and ask for his prayers as we seek to separate our secular ambitions from our spiritual selves, and thereby achieve the victory he has won. We pray, as he most assuredly did, that the physical wealth of this world will not turn us from the sacrifice of Christ, and lead us away from him. May we always keep our eyes on the narrow gate and strive to do his will.


[1] The picture is “The Temptation of St Anthony Abbot” by Annibale Carracci, 1597-98 
[2] The readings are taken from the New American Bible with the exception of the Psalm and its response which were developed by the International Committee for English in Liturgy (ICEL). This re-publication is not authorized by USCCB and is for private use only. 
[3] See NAB Footnote on Ephesians 6:10ff 
[4] See NAB Footnote on Matthew 18-19

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