READING OF THE DAY (with commentary): 17 JANUARY, 2013

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“A leper came to him and kneeling down begged him and said, «If you wish, you can make me clean.»

Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.”

The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean.

Then, warning him sternly, he dismissed him at once.

Then he said to him, “See that you tell no one anything, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them.”

The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter.

He spread the report abroad so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly.

He remained outside in deserted places, and people kept coming to him from everywhere.” -Mark 1:40-45.
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Commentary on the Reading of the day provided by:

Blessed John-Paul II, Pope from 1978 to 2005
Sermon preached to young people

“Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him”
The loving gesture of Jesus, who goes up to lepers to comfort and heal them, has its full and mysterious expression in his Passion.

Tortured and disfigured by his bloody sweat, scourging, crowning with thorns and crucifixion, abandoned by those who forgot his good deeds, Jesus is identified with lepers in his Passion.

He becomes both their image and their symbol, as the prophet Isaiah intuited when he contemplated the mystery of the Servant of the Lord: “There was in him no beauty nor appearance… He was despised and rejected by men and as one from whom others hide their faces… And we, we accounted him stricken, struck down by God and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:2-4).

Yet it is precisely from the wounds on the tortured body of Jesus and from the power of his resurrection that life and hope spring up for all those who are struck down by evil and infirmity.

The Church has always been faithful to its mission of proclaiming the word of Christ, united to concrete acts of mercy showing solidarity towards the humblest and least.

Throughout the centuries there has been a crescendo of stunning and exceptional devotion on behalf of those struck down by what are, humanly speaking, the most repulsive of illnesses.

History clearly brings to light the fact that Christians have been the first to become involved in the problem of lepers.

Christ’s example led the way.

He bore much fruit in selfless deeds of solidarity, devotion, generosity and charity.

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SAINT OF THE DAY: 17 JANUARY, 2013

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Saint Anthony of the Desert
Patriarch of Monastic Life
(251-356)

Saint Anthony was born in the year 251, in Upper Egypt. Hearing at Mass the words, If you would be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, he gave away all his vast possessions — staying only to see that his sister’s education was completed — and retired into the desert.

He then begged an aged hermit to teach him the spiritual life, and he also visited various solitaries, undertaking to copy the principal virtue of each.

To serve God more perfectly, Anthony immured himself in a ruin, building up the door so that none could enter. Here the devils assaulted him furiously, appearing as various monsters, and even wounding him severely; but his courage never failed, and he overcame them all by confidence in God and by the sign of the cross.

One night, while Anthony was in his solitude, many devils scourged him so terribly that he lay as if dead. A friend found him in this condition, and believing him dead carried him home. But when Anthony came to himself he persuaded his friend to take him back, in spite of his wounds, to his solitude.

Here, prostrate from weakness, he defied the devils, saying, I fear you not; you cannot separate me from the love of Christ. After more vain assaults the devils fled, and Christ appeared to Anthony in His glory.

Saint Anthony’s only food was bread and water, which he never tasted before sunset, and sometimes only once in two, three, or four days. He wore sackcloth and sheepskin, and he often knelt in prayer from sunset to sunrise.

His admirers became so many and so insistent that he was eventually persuaded to found two monasteries for them and to give them a rule of life.

These were the first monasteries ever to be founded, and Saint Anthony is, therefore, the father of cenobites of monks.

In 311 he went to Alexandria to take part in the Arian controversy and to comfort those who were being persecuted by Maximinus.

This visit lasted for a few days only, after which he retired into a solitude even more remote so that he might cut himself off completely from his admirers. When he was over ninety, he was commanded by God in a vision to search the desert for Saint Paul the Hermit.

He is said to have survived until the age of a hundred and five, when he died peacefully in a cave on Mount Kolzim near the Red Sea.

Saint Athanasius, his biographer, says that the mere knowledge of how Saint Anthony lived is a good guide to virtue.