January 22, 2014
Today we celebrate the feats day of Antony the Great also known as Antony Abbot. He was born around 251 in Lower Egypt to wealthy parents. When they died when he was about 18 years old, after taking care of his sister, he decided to take literally the command of Jesus to the rich young man: "If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasures in heaven; and come, follow Me". Although not the first monk he was probably the first to go out into the wilderness to avoid the distractions of living in towns and villages. He died as a very old man in 356. His longevity belies the strict, ascetic life he led from a young man. St. Athanasius wrote the biography of Anthony’s life and this helped popularise him and his message.
This life of Antony is well worth reading. What comes across is complete dedication to Christ above all and the living of a life completely centred on him. Although it may be impractical for us to ‘sell all we have’, nevertheless we are called to practise detachment from this world. Are we always striving for the next ‘must have’ item? Antony shows us the futility of that as a means of achieving happiness and peace. May he pray for us and our materialistic world.
January 13, 2014
I wonder how many sermons will begin on Sunday with an attempt to explain why Jesus didn’t need to be baptised but still underwent the baptism described in the gospel reading? Several preachers will be at pains to explain that Jesus did not have original sin and then try to explain why John still baptised him. The problem is that we have become so used to seeing baptism as a ‘washing away’ that we fail to see what the gospel is saying. Jesus’ baptism is revelatory: he is shown for who he really is – the Son of God. In fact the gospel reveals to us the God we believe – Father, Son, and Spirit. The baptism of Jesus is not some edificatory piece of play-acting, rather it is the revelation of the Trinity at work as Jesus begins his ministry.
In the same way our baptism reveals something about us. It shows us that we are the sons and daughters of God. The difference is that our baptism takes away the wound of original sin and makes us God’s children. The baptism of Jesus shows us who he really is – one free from sin because he is the eternally begotten Son of the Father. He is by nature what we are by adoption – but we are both still the children of God the Father. What a wonderful thought to sustain us as we journey into this new year.