Feast of St. Francis of Assisi
Francis of Assisi: Prophet and Poet
Jesus confronted the reality of evil and selfishness with his message of life and love. Some have received his message with an open heart; others have turned away in a spirit of denial. Today’s Gospel selection from Luke 10 shares Jesus’ cries of “woe” and challenge to those who remained hard-hearted and closed to his message of Love and Life. Contrasting is the message of today’s first reading from the prophet Baruch as he prays in hope and humility that God will look kindly upon the people who have turned away in their sinfulness. Baruch proclaims the goodness and compassion of God, as was later personally witnessed in the life of Jesus.
Today we celebrate the life of a 12th Century saint who was called to help bring about a renewal in the Church through the personal witness of his life, his “spirit”. Francis of Assisi heard the personal call of Jesus and gave himself wholeheartedly to Jesus in 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 redirected his life to evangelical poverty and preaching. Francis’ life witness was charismatic, compassionate, and loving of all God’s creation. God used Francis to call others to lives of radical discipleship – and so many responded that Francis compiled a “rule of life” and founded numerous religious communities of women and men. He lived but 44 short years, sharing the joy of those early disciples of Jesus, sparking a spiritual renewal that continues to inspire men and women today – especially our own Pope Francis! “Rebuild my church…”
Today Jesus and Francis of Assisi challenge us to generously promote God’s Kingdom. Our world is dramatically challenged by violence, selfishness, poverty and hunger, hopelessness, injustice, etc. We are challenged to be faith-filled disciples…to respect God’s presence in all people, in nature and all created things, in the daily events of life. Simplicity and humility are held up to us as virtues of 21st Century disciples, witnessing the mercy and compassion which are the heart of God.
The Collect Prayer of today’s feast day Eucharist prays “…Saint Francis was conformed to Christ in poverty and humility; grant that, by walking in Francis’ footsteps, we may follow your Son, and, through joyful charity come to be united with you….” Like Francis, may we be channels of God’s peace!
Fr. John Schork, C.P. is the Vocation Director for Holy Cross Province. He lives at St. Vincent Strambi Community in Chicago, Illinois.