In this new painting, St. Anthony Mary Zaccaria, as a doctor, attends with tenderness and love to a sick person whose body radiates light, illuminating Christ in him. This confirms Christ’s very own word: “Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do it to me.”
“Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do it to me.” (Matthew 25:45)
St. Anthony Mary must have meditated upon this when he said in his sermon: “Believe that the love of neighbor both effects the love of God and manifests it.” “Do you wish to love God and be dear to Him and be His good children? Love your neighbor; take your neighbor as your compass; resolve to do good to your neighbor and never to offend him.” It is true that St. Anthony Mary dedicated his whole sermon about the importance of loving one’s “neighbor”—the “neighbor” who Christ calls “my brethren.” “One and the same thing [love of neighbor] helps you acquire, expand, and increase [the love of God] more and more and reveals it when it is present” (Sermon IV). And St. Anthony Mary resolved in saying, “Therefore, I want to acquire this love.”
Having seen the situation of his time, with the continuing outbreaks of plague and pestilence, St. Anthony felt the need to help the “neighbor” in need, especially the sick. He took up medicine, and finished the course, becoming a doctor.
While working as a doctor, he realized that there was a far greater need in something that he had to attend to—his “neighbor’s” spiritual infirmity. He became a priest. “I have decided to devote myself to the care of the spiritual welfare of my neighbor” (Letter XII).
His knowledge of medicine produced in him a great capacity to do his priestly ministry. Being aware of the “medicine” necessary to cure sickness, he knew how to deal with the “sickness” of his time, that of the growing decadence of spiritual life and the banishing fervor of the Christian life. He saw lukewarmness as the “most pernicious and greatest enemy” (Letter II) to combat with. And he did. Yet, he combated it with the most tenderness of a doctor, but the strength of a reformer. He went about “curing” and reforming the lives of his “neighbor,” encouraging them to “return to God” (Sermon II).
And nowadays, in our time, St. Anthony Mary’s challenge still resounds: “Spend your time helping your neighbor” (Sermon I). For “the way to love God is to love our neighbor” (Sermon IV). Indeed, “God has made your neighbor the road to reach His Majesty” (Sermon IV).
St. Anthony Mary was that doctor and reformer of the sixteenth century who zealously “took care” of the “neighbor” that he was talking about—the “brethren” of Christ—consuming his life, dying at an early age, to living out this gospel truth: “Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do it to me.”
Indeed, this painting exposes us this truth, but at the same presents to us the same invitation of St. Anthony Mary: “devote [yourselves] to the care of… [your] neighbor”— who is Christ Himself.
By Sr. Rorivic Pelias Israel, ASP