Feast of St. Francis of Assisi
“The Kingdom of God is at Hand!”
Today’s Gospel selection recalls the sending of the 72 disciples, in pairs, to every town and place Jesus intended to visit. His instructions were clear: go, as lambs among wolves; pack lightly, take nothing extra; greet no one along the way; proclaim God’s peace, cure the sick, announce the Kingdom of God. The disciples did as instructed; the Kingdom was proclaimed; lives were changed – and we today, worlds away from those early disciples, are blessed with our Christian faith.
That same call of God has been shared with many other great men and women – with “heavenly” results! The month of October celebrates the lives of many founders of religious communities; today we celebrate the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi…patron of our Holy Father, Pope Francis, and thousands of men and women who seek to enflesh the charism and ministry of St. Francis of Assisi.
Today’s Gospel passage about the sending of the 72 disciples 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…so much so that God called others to join him in community. Francis compiled a “rule of life” and established many religious communities of men and women. In the 44 short years of his life, he sparked a spiritual renewal that continues to inspire men and women of all ages and walks of life, in all parts of the world.
Have we heard the call? No doubt, Jesus and St. Francis spoke to the heart of the Founder of the Passionists, St. Paul of the Cross, and today we Passionists are grateful for our charism that is rooted in the love of Jesus Crucified and ministry to the “least, the last, the lost”. Jesus speaks to each of us today as our world deals with a variety of challenging issues: violence, mistrust, abuse, the environment, a lack of good leadership, a “ho-hum” attitude about life, selfishness, etc. Jesus and Francis and Paul of the Cross challenge us to look deeply into our hearts and respond as people of faith and courage and service.
Let’s pray that, with St. Francis’ example, we all may help renew the Church in our day and age, especially with the generous involvement of young people as the XV Ordinary General Synod of Bishops takes place in Rome, focused on “Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment”. The Kingdom of God is at hand
Fr. John Schork, C.P. is a member of the Passionist community in Chicago, Illinois.