Memorial of St. Francis of Assisi
Today’s Gospel recounts Jesus inviting people to share his mission of proclaiming the Kingdom of God. Some made great professions of faith as they joined Jesus; others put conditions on their discipleship response – seemingly honorable deeds of burying deceased parents or saying farewell to families at home. And yet Jesus asks for the full commitment of his disciples…nothing hindering a person’s 100% response!
That bold challenge spoke to the heart of the well-known 12th Century saint we celebrate today, Francis of Assisi. Francis heard that personal call of Jesus and ultimately gave himself wholeheartedly to Jesus in a life of praise, sacrifice and service. The Scriptures came alive for Francis of Assisi. His carefree youth was radically changed by the Jesus’ call; he renounced his possessions and redirected his life to evangelical poverty and preaching. Francis’ life was truly charismatic, compassionate, and loving of all God’s creation. God used Francis to call others to lives of radical discipleship; so many responded that Francis wrote a “rule of life” and established a number of men’s and women’s religious communities. In the 44 short years of his life, he shared the joy of those early disciples of Jesus and sparked a spiritual renewal and vitality that continue to inspire men and women today – especially our own Pope Francis! “Rebuild my church” challenged St. Francis – and Pope Francis today, precisely as the men and women of the Church meet in the 2023 session of the Synod of Bishops.
Jesus and Francis of Assisi challenge us to generously live and promote God’s Kingdom! Our global family is dramatically challenged by “disasters” of all types and intensities: violence & war, selfishness, poverty & hunger, climate change, injustice, disease, etc. How do we respond today as faith-filled disciples? How do we respect God’s presence in people, nature, created things, the daily events in the lives of our worldwide sisters and brothers? How do we reflect the life-giving simplicity and humility of Jesus and Francis in our lives? How do we best proclaim God’s mercy and compassion amid our world’s suffering and hopelessness? Today’s Scriptures, the life of St. Francis, and the example of our contemporary faithful encourage us to say “yes”, leaving all behind to join Jesus in proclaiming God’s love by word and deed.
Today, in the spirit of Francis of Assisi: May we be simple, faith-filled, joy-filled, compassionate disciples of Jesus! May we treasure our “Common Home” and be channels of God’s peace!
Fr. John Schork, C.P. serves as the Province Vocation Director and also as Local Superior of the Passionist Community of Holy Name in Houston, Texas.