Solemnity of Our Holy Father Saint Francis 2020 (Part I)
For this grace-filled day, a bit more to meditate upon.
This is a three part series on fraternal charity.
Buona Festa! Happy Festival of Saint Francis! FrP
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby bringing the hostility to an end. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built into it for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
Saint Paul to the Ephesians 2:13-22
Only in Christ could the Gordian knot of sin’s tangle be loosed. In the beginning it was not so, life was simple. Man and woman were created without shame, in original holiness and justice, manifest in the communion of persons and harmony of creation. Sin’s sad story is the warping and destruction of the peace intended by God, and for which all creation groans in travail as it “waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God” (cf. Rom 8:18-25). In our weakness and through our own fault we have contributed to this mess of confusion.
Into the forgetfulness of mind, soul and body that is the result of sin, Francis was made by God into a “new man” (cf. LegCl 5.1). He had lived in the unhappy state of sin, but the Lord gave him a new heart and a new vision (cf. Test 1-3). Francis began to truly love the God who had revealed Himself in Christ. He began to meditate upon the life of Christ, to desire to live with Him and to follow in His footsteps. Gazing upon Christ, especially upon the humility of the Incarnation and the burning charity of the Passion, life could no longer be the same. It was not enough to have a feeling of compassion, even to have tears, a transformation needed to occur. No longer could he live that carnival-like existence as the prince and king of the confraternity of youth. He had Another to imitate, One who first descended in order to set things aright.
This movement came to a head as Francis renounced his earthly father with all the upward mobility of worldly dreams, and leapt into the arms of the Heavenly Father, saying “Our Father who art in Heaven.” In Francis’ sign of the stripping off of his clothes, Pope Benedict intuited the primordial value, it was “just as at the moment of creation, Francis had nothing, only the life that God gave him, into whose hands he delivered himself” (Gen Audience Jan 27, 2010). The first Adam, created out of the dust of the earth, is given a new day in Francis. He returns to his beginnings, living close to the earth and to all who dwell therein: “They must rejoice,” Francis insists, “when they live among people considered of little value and looked down upon, among the poor and the powerless, the sick and the lepers, and the beggars by the wayside” (ER 9.2). This was the Way our Lord had trod: He made himself little, accepted ignominy and derision for us and our salvation.
We must dwell and live in the mystery of Christ: “O how holy and how loving, gratifying, humbling, peace-giving, sweet, worthy of love, and above all things desirable it is to have such a Brother and such a Son: our Lord Jesus Christ Who laid down His life for His sheep” (2LtrFid 56). Francis taught those who professed the life of penance to experience in themselves the effects of life in Christ: it is holy, it makes us experience being loved and the desire to return it, gratifies, humbles us with peace and trust, it tastes of sweetness. To be a brother and sister of Christ is lovable and utterly desirable. Of this holy revolution, Saint Bonaventure wrote:
“True piety … had so filled Francis’ heart and penetrated its depths that it seemed to have claimed the man of God completely into its dominion. This is what, through devotion, lifted him up into God; through compassion, transformed him into Christ; through self-emptying, turned him to his neighbor; through universal reconciliation with each thing, refashioned him to the state of innocence. Through this virtue he was moved with piety to all things, especially to souls redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus Christ. When he saw them being stained by the filth of sin, he grieved with such tender care that he seemed like a mother who was daily bringing them to birth in Christ.” (LegMaj 8.1).
Piety, a gift of the Spirit which is a true sharing in the Sonship of Christ, makes us reach out to our neighbor because we see them as a child of God, a son or daughter of the same Father in Heaven. It is a gift of the Spirit, the Spirit of Adoption, that cries out within us “Abba, Father!” (cf. Rom 8:15). It’s fruit: joy, peace, patience, generosity. All of this we see, and receive, in Christ Jesus.
Stay tuned for the next part. Make sure you are following us, or like us, or have subscribed, or whatever the appropriate verb may be. Pace e Bene. : )