SUNDAY October 16. We are celebrating St. Francis Day a bit late this year. For the readings click here.
I read an article in The Living Church, by The Rev. Larry Harrelson of Sisters, OR, about Francis that gave me some ideas about how Francis, before his conversion, symbolizes our lives in this day and time. Weighed down with burdens of maintaining our place in the world, our status, we live our lives out of relationship with our true selves, our neighbors and God. We put up masks of "making it." We spend our days busy with activities that in the long run will not matter to us. We don't leave time for that which produce joy. We live in fear that there will not be "enough."
Francis was a wealthy young man, full of himself, his power, his abilities. He rode into battle looking for glory but ended up in prison, abandoned in a crowded cell, in the dark. We cruise along thinking our might as a nation, or our individual abilities will carry us through. It seems only when we find ourselves in disaster do we have to face our true selves - our ultimate powerlessness and hunger, our emptiness of life. Francis heard a call from God "As you go, proclaim the good news, 'the kingdom has come near.' Cure the sick raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics. or sandals or staff, for laborers deserve their food." Matt 10:7-10. He gave up everything and found everything.
Once Francis came upon the wolf, Gubbio, who was terrorizing a village - he spoke to Gubbio about how he could feed his hunger without endangering the villagers. How often our hungers turn us into people that terrify others. Will we find food for our spiritual hungers?
He would carry worms across the road so they would not be injured by the wheels of the vehicles or careless feet. Can we find that kind of tenderness toward the creation and our planet that sustains us?
His father wanted him to return to the family business and said he would cut him off from his inheritance if he did not. Francis stripped off all the clothes that had been purchased by his family's wealth and stood naked rather than give up his sense of what God wanted of him. Can we strip off all that does not make this world a better place? Stand open to God and God's call on our lives? Share rather than hoard? Give up power to empower others?
Today we bless our animal friends, those who are with us and those who are absent. It is a symbol of our care for creation and the gifts that the creation gives us. St. Francis is honored all over the world with ceremonies such as this one. But St. Francis is also more - a person who challenges us to live in truth and witness to the power of God's love for us and for all creation.