Today the Church celebrates the famous Saint Anthony of the Desert, sometimes called Saint Anthony the Abbot. He was born into the Christian community of Egypt in about the year 250 and lived about a hundred years—remarkable for that period, the austerity of his life and the severe heat and aridity of Egypt. As a very young man, he felt the call to go out into the desert to live a contemplative life. He didn’t realize how many others had that same inclination but lacked the leadership to implement their desires. Anthony was the leader they needed, and by the time of his death as a very old man, he left colonies of hundreds of monks out in the Egyptian desert as the beginnings of Christian religious life. They are called “The Desert Fathers” by church historians, and have left us a rich heritage of spiritual writings and example.
In today’s Mass, one of the responsorial passages which can be used after the first reading in honor of Saint Anthony is taken from the 16th psalm. In it, the psalmist reflects upon the fact that he has not inherited wealth or real estate or slaves or any material possessions. He has inherited nothing less than God himself. “O Lord,” he exclaims, “you are my allotted portion . . . you it is who hold fast my lot.” The psalmist is saying that he and his fellow Jewish people are more fortunate than the gentiles, because God gives himself to them as their divine Lord, Guide, and Protector. He goes on to say, “For me the measuring lines have fallen on pleasant sites; fair to me indeed is my inheritance.”
This passages always brings to my mind a visit that Archbishop Leo Binz of Dubuque, Iowa, made to our seminary to confer Holy Orders on some of us on our way to the priesthood. He spoke of that passage in a way that struck me more forcefully than I had ever heard it explained before, and even now, when I hear “fair indeed is my inheritance” I think of Archbishop Binz and am grateful to him for his words and ideas.
Think of your own case, my dear friends. You might have been born in some part of the world where there is poverty, famine, epidemics of deadly diseases, and where the very Name of Jesus has never been preached? Do we realize how blessed we are, how grateful we should be, for all that we have in terms of material wealth, physical well-being, and above all, our spiritual wealth because of our holy faith which brings to us Our Lord Jesus Christ, his blessed Mother, and the saints? Indeed, our inheritance is fair; we are God’s highly favored ones. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This Message was composed some years ago.