Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi
Job 42:1-3, 5-6, 12-17
This past week we’ve been privileged to walk with the Old Testament person Job and prayerfully grapple with the human reality of suffering and a search for meaning. Despite all his mysterious sufferings, Job came to accept God’s will for him and, as we hear today, he repented of any resistance he had shown to God. The story ends with a restoration to Job of even more than he had lost in his earlier trials: large herds of animals, seven sons and three beautiful daughters plus numerous grandchildren, and a long life of 144 years!
In the Gospel selection from Luke, Jesus welcomes back his disciples returning from their ministry to the needy souls of their day. He reminds the disciples to rejoice not because of the power or success in their ministries, but because God knows them and loves them. Following Jesus would include suffering; Jesus was there to encourage them and help them maintain his perspective on life: suffering and love go hand in hand.
Saint Francis of Assisi heard that personal call of Jesus in the 12th Century; he gave himself wholeheartedly to Jesus and began an exemplary life of praise, sacrifice and service. The Scriptures came alive for Francis of Assisi. His carefree youth was radically changed by the call of Jesus; he renounced his personal possessions and changed his life to one of evangelical poverty and preaching. Francis’ life witness was truly charismatic, compassionate, and loving of all God’s creation. God called others to join him, and Francis compiled a "rule of life" and established a number of religious communities of both men and women. In the 44 short years of his life, he shared the joy of those earliest disciples of Jesus and sparked a spiritual renewal that continues to inspire men and women of all ages and walks of life – especially our own Pope Francis!
Today, the "trio" of Jesus, Job, and Francis challenge us to look at life today: how do we respect God’s presence in people, nature, created things, daily events? How do we reflect simplicity and humility in our lives? How do we proclaim God’s mercy and compassion in the midst of our world’s suffering and hopelessness, and thus build up the Church?
May we be simple, faith-filled, joy-filled, compassionate, and respectful as we follow Jesus today! Job, Francis of Assisi, and Paul of the Cross have set the bar high!
Fr. John Schork, C.P. is the local leader of the Passionist community in Louisville, Kentucky.