Today we honour the memory of Saint Anthony of Egypt who took literally the words of Our Lord: “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor and you will have treasures in heaven; then come, follow me.” We honour Saint Anthony as one of the founders of monastic life in the Church. Saint Athanasius, who knew Saint Anthony well and wrote his biography, said of him: ‘Anthony was not known for his writings nor for his worldly wisdom, nor for any art, but simply for his reverence towards God.’ May we follow his example. Saint Anthony died in the year 356.
As we prepare to begin the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity we are reminded once again, of the painful divisions among Christians and we are encouraged to pray and to work for the reconciliation of our separated brethren into the One Church Our Lord established. On the night before he died, Our Lord prayed for his followers in every age and asked “that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me and I in you” (John 17:21).
The first reading emphasises the hope and the confidence we should have in God. Though it may seem at times that we will never overcome the differences that separate Christians, we can still have hope because Our Lord continues to ask his Father that we may all be united.
God wants to unite his scattered, divided children, and he will help us to achieve a more respectful and humble approach towards those who think differently than we do. Because Our Lord is the basis of our hope, we can look for an answer with confidence and expectation.
And yet we can’t have hope if we don’t believe that what we hope for will ever happen. Neither can we have hope without the perseverance to work for what we are seeking. For example Abraham shines as a man with great faith in God’s promises. He persevered through trial and disappointment until he realized his dreams of having a son. Because he was patient and did his best to obey God, his hopes were realized beyond his expectations. He became not only the father of Isaac but the father of many nations, he is also our father in faith.
We are the heirs of God’s promises and Our Lord is the “sure and steadfast anchor” for our faith (Hebrews 6:19). He has asked the Father that we may be one; and will the Father deny him? Of course not. We can have faith that we will see the fulfilment of God’s desire that we all become one in the Church he established. We just need to pray and work for it a little bit harder.