Saturday, October 14, 2006

Sunday we will celebrate the Feast of St. Francis, a little late. His day is October 4th but the first time this month we could make it happen in Rock Springs and Eden. St. Francis was a rich young man who "had it all" - friends, family connections, a soldier, popularity. Something must have been missing though - as he could often be found at the site of the ruins of the church at San Damiano. At one point he heard the voice of Jesus saying "build my church." He began to restore the ruins of the building thinking that is what the voice meant. He attracted other young men who were looking for meaning in their lives. He gave away money to the poor. Finally his father confronted him and said he had to choose - either give up his family connections or his new way of life. Francis chose to follow Christ, taking off all his fine clothes that belonged to the wealth of his family. Naked in the town square - a compassionate bishop covered him with his cope.
He had many other legendary adventures among them his ability to communicate with wolves, birds and other animals. This is why we celebrate his life with the blessing of animals. Francis' life was paralleled by Clare who was also taken with this simple way of life - serving the poor and marginalized. Each founded an order of followers who agreed with their ideals.
In our reading today we hear Jesus say, Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Often our commitment to serve Christ in the world can feel like a heavy burden -- so many hurting people, so many needs, how can we even make a difference?
Lane Denson in Out of Nowhere says perhaps examining the meaning of the word "sacrifice" will give us a broader perspective of what God requires. Sacrifice in our common usage means giving up things or our life, but it has its roots in "to make holy" or "sacred." So while it can mean to give up something it also means seeing all our gifts and resources as having potential for holiness. It all depends on what we do with them. When we see our "things" in this way - they become light, we become less attached to them and can more freely use them to build up the creation and all our brothers and sisters in this world.
Our pets give themselves to us in love - we care for them and love them in return. They need very little: affection, exercise, food, water, shelter. Maybe we can learn from them.