Readings for Antony Abbot in Egypt, 356 January 17
“Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, ‘You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money* to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.” (Mark 10: 21 – 22)
I have often pondered about the rich young man who rejected Jesus’ invitation to “come, follow me.” He could have had his name mentioned among the apostles. As it is, I have only seven actual invitees among those named as apostles in spite of the Bible naming twelve. They are, Simon and Andrew – Matthew 4:18 – 20, John and James – Matthew 4: 21 – 22, Matthew (AKA Levi) Matthew 9:9, and then Philip – John 1:43, and Nathaniel – John 1: 50 – 51. So this rich young man could have been named and among them. Antony, who we remember today, looked at the mistake the rich young man made and changed his way of living.
“In the third century, many young men turned away from the corrupt and decadent society of the time, and went to live in deserts or on mountains, in solitude, fasting, and prayer. Antony of Egypt was an outstanding example of this movement, but he was not merely a recluse. He was a founder of monasticism, and wrote a rule for anchorites.” (Great Cloud of Witnesses for January 17)
The most important point to note here is that Antony is credited as the founder of Monasticism. While there have been many who built on the idea of monasticism, Antony got it started.
“Antony’s parents were Christians, and he grew up to be quiet, devout, and meditative. When his parents died, he and his younger sister were left to care for a sizable estate. Six months later, in church, he heard the reading about the rich young ruler whom Christ advised to sell all he had and give to the poor. Antony at once gave his land to the villagers and sold most of his goods, giving the proceeds to the poor. Later, after meditating on Christ’s bidding, “Do not be anxious about tomorrow,” he sold what remained of his possessions, placed his sister in a “house of maidens,” and became an anchorite (solitary ascetic).” (Great Cloud of Witnesses for January 17)
If we permit it, Bible stories can change us – improve us. I use the word “Ponder” because of Luke’s (NRSV translation) explanation of Mary’s Pondering in her heart. “But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.” (Luke 1:29) and “But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19) Mary was no ordinary person. She was handpicked by God to parent the God-child, perhaps because of her loving heart.
Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to and through the saints of God and then ponder anew what the Almighty can do. John