When St. Francis of Assisi focused on Jesus Crucified, everything else in his life fell into place. He reasoned: If that is God on the Cross, what else is there in this world? And, if that is God on the Cross, that would just have to be repeated and re-presented until the end of time; and, it is by His intention, His invention, His creativity in the Holy and unbloody Sacrifice of the Mass. Jesus came into this world to die and to rise: to give us this Paschal Mystery. Nothing absorbed St. Francis more than Jesus crucified and risen.
The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, better than anything else, shows the love of our God for us. “Greater love than this, no one has, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” This is the love Francis was determined to imitate. He would dispose himself for that grace by emptying himself of himself and everything else to make room for God and His Holy Will. He wanted to be utterly uncluttered forever open to the Divine Invasion. This is what his poverty was all about: self-crucifixion, self-abnegation, self-denial.
Francis’ greatest lament was that Love was not loved. He would cry day and night. He was never more the Seraphic Saint than when he contemplated the Crucified: our God, naked, clothed only in His own blood. His whole ambition in life was to make a return to the One who so loved him first. He would try to teach others the same focus: to love without counting the cost, as Jesus loved us – unconditionally, sacrificially, eternally, completely, and unselfishly.
He could not make this choice without the help of the One he was contemplating. He knew he needed the Lord at each and every step of his conversion; he could not bear the pain of his sacred stigmata unless the Lord was with him. His personal contribution to this process would be the humble heart that he knew he would have to cultivate. That is the only kind of heart that can win the favor of God. No wonder he would stay up all night long and pray to God: “Who are you, God most dear! Who am I but a useless, worthless, little worm of a servant!”
When Francis speaks of Lady Poverty that he had espoused, it is the poverty of his personality – humility of heart – that he was aiming at. The love for Jesus Crucified cannot be rooted in any other kind of heart but the humble heart. “Learn of me,” Jesus says, “because I am meek and humble of heart;” meek, kind, gentle, courteous with other people; but very humble in adoration and prostration before Him, because He is God and you and I are not God. Our God would not even dream of planting his Love in any other kind of heart but the humble one. He knows this is the way to our peace. May Jesus Crucified be our point of view as well.