Like Francis of Assisi

Luke 10: 1-12

There are many saints worthy of adulation, but St Francis of Assisi, who we celebrate today, is regarded in a special way because he displayed a nature that was so similar to Christ's. We're told that he abandoned his upper-middle class comforts and privileges at the early age of 22 or 23 to wander through the hills around Assisi, in a style that would remind us of the many stories of Christ, and would be emblematic of the calling that Christ makes to the 72 other disciples in the Gospel reading today.

 

Many people of St Francis' time scoffed at him because his actions, like nursing lepers and being involved in various charitable endeavors, were so counter to the norm.  But over time, people began to "pause in wonderment" over what they saw. They became drawn to him, one-by-one began to follow him, and then, two-by-two, spread his message.  They were said to wander place to place like children "careless of the day", singing God's praises.  They were true evangelists, preaching repentance in every locale that they entered. 

 

Francis then returned to Assisi with his group, which became referred to as Friars Minor (the word "minor" reflected their lower class status). This group became more commonly called the “Franciscans”.  They gained a foothold with a very modest settlement in an area very close to Assisi.  It was there that the first Franciscan convent was formed. 

 

So much has been made of his care for the lepers, cleaning their sores and caressing them.  So much has also been made of his love of, and oneness with, the animals, and the legendary story of his encounter with a vicious wolf, who had been terrorizing the town of Gubbio. 

 

Tying together his care for both the lepers and the animals, including the vicious wolves, I heard an expression given by contemporary Franciscan, Richard Rohr, who said: “There’s a wolf and a leper in all of us- and in every human.  The wolf is angry and dangerous.  The leper is also dangerous, and repulsive.  Both can kill.  But we must befriend both the wolf and the leper - in ourselves and in others.”

 

Its interesting that Jesus is sending out his disciples in the Gospel, as he says, "like lambs among wolves".  We may not literally meet up with any lepers or wolves today, but I believe that Jesus' call for us, as we face the day ahead, is to be "lamb-like" to those that are the "wolf-like" and the "leper-like".  We do this through humble service.

 

In a "dog eat dog world", Francis' example encourages us not be counted among the dogs.  Our charge is to not let the dogs of the world draw us into their battles. Rather, as Christ's disciples, we're called to draw those dogs into his peace.  And when encountering the downtrodden, we shouldn't let the despair of those afflicted weaken our resolve. Rather, our resolve should be strong enough to engage them, to lift them up with his peace, and bring them hope.

 

So we pray today that we can be more like Francis and impose Christ's peace on all those we encounter - in other words, be an instrument of his peace.   If we do that, we'll exhibit the rest of the characteristics noted in that Prayer of St Francis. 

 

We'll more likely be the consolers instead of seeking to be consoled, more likely to be the people who understand more than to be among those who need to be understood, and more like those that love first before seeking the love and acceptance of others. 

 

Seeking God's peace begins with our prayer and petition, exhibiting God's peace begins, and ends with, the choice of humble service!

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