Last week, I had a discussion with one my colleagues about one of the Churches in the city I haven’t visited yet, the one of San Antonio Abad Parish. My curiosity about the location of the Church was actually piqued when I took a ride to the Mother of Perpetual Help Shrine, and the driver asked me if I have attended Mass at the San Antonio Abad Church. (I haven’t yet!) During that discussion, we both realized the closest meaning of Abad, which is “Abbot”, to distinguish it from the Saint of Padua.
In today’s Gospel, the story of St. Anthony the Great foremost among others, come to mind. I have become a devotee of this great saint, after getting to read on his life and on knowing that he was an inspiration of my patron, Saint Anthony of Padua. Not only was he influential on the life of the Saint of Padua, it was also after having heard, inspired and moved by the story of the life of Saint Anthony of the Desert that the famous St. Augustine of Hippo converted to Christianity.
Anthony was born in Coma in Lower Egypt in A.D. 251 to wealthy landowner parents. At age 18, shortly after his parents’ death and leaving him to care for his unmarried sister, he decided to follow the Evangelical counsel of Jesus to the rich man in today’s Gospel which reads,
“You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” (Mk. 10: 21)
Anthony gave away some of his family’s wealth, sold the remaining property, and donated the funds thus raised to the poor. He then left to live an ascetic life, placing his sister with a group of Christian virgins, a sort of proto-convent. (en.wikipedia.org)
Clearly the testimonies of these great men are the ones that inspire and create interest in the “Pearl of Great Price” that they’ve found in their search for God. Jesus taught us about the importance of the Word, Heaven and Eternal Life over earthly material possessions. All the great saints like St. Anthony the Great, St. Augustine of Hippo and St. Anthony of Padua had the gift of Wisdom to choose the Gospel over wealth.
In today’s First Reading, the prayer of King Solomon for the gift of Wisdom was granted. He preferred her “over scepter and throne”, “beyond health and comeliness”, and “chose to have her rather than the light”.
It cannot be denied that most if not all of us want to be happy. Aside from the happiness that holy men and women feel in serving the Lord, most people want to live a comfortable life, go on vacation, dine in fancy restaurants, and drive that fast car in the luxury dealership. Regardless of your definition of happiness, Jesus wants you to be happy in the right perspective. He wants you to live comfortably, but not necessarily ignoring His will for you and in pursuing the greater good for others. But isn’t it true that when you make a sacrifice for a loved one or family member, you become happy? Ask many of our OFWs and you get the idea. So, isn’t it then a way of telling, that it is not really about you, but about others: making others happy that you become truly happy.
God has commanded, “Love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.” He must be first and the top priority in our lives and anything that stands before us and God, must be relegated to the background.
Putting it lightly, when you want Heaven more, it is then about you giving up temporal things so that you’ll win it in the end. Things that blind you, things that cloud your focus and things that distract you from the more important matters deserving more attention, should be the ones that we worry about. These block our sights on Jesus and Heavenly Treasures. The great saints were given that ability to see the most important aspects and thus they were able to focus intently on Heaven. Many even gave the greatest sacrifice of offering their lives so that in return they gain Eternal Life. It is not easy choosing, especially when you are concerned with a lot of temporal things. However, when you desire something really the most, it’s easy to give up and sacrifice over things you desire the least.
Jesus wants us to discern what are more important, what things that have to be left behind especially when those things are what’s keeping us from following Him. There are also times we want to give something for Him but it’s just that this “something” is not what is being asked of us. Again, the importance of prayer, discernment and wisdom.
Let us therefore ask the Lord to grant us the gift of Wisdom, so that we learn to set our priorities straight. This Wisdom is one that can have positive impact and inspire others and is only possible when you have an intimate relationship with Christ.
May we be granted the strength to pursue the love of Jesus, who is the True Wisdom.
‘Fill us with your love, O Lord, and we will sing for joy!’ (cf. Ps. 90:14)