The Gospel: Matthew 11:25–30
Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
“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.”
Prayer: Lord, you have promised that when two or three gather in your name you will be present with them. We depend on that promise today and pray that you will move among us. Lord, we pray that have you inspired Mike's preparation, that you will enliven his presentation and that you will empower our application. Amen
The Message: We are stepping aside from our journey through the Gospel of Luke in our post Pentecost, Ordinary Time experience. Today we are celebrating The Feast Day of St Francis of Assisi.
This afternoon at 2 pm on the steps of the Ohio St entrance we will have a Blessing of the Animals as part of that celebration. So, bring your pets along and we will pray God's blessing on them and you.
Francis is a fascinating character. In his early life he was a man of extremes. Born into a wealthy family he led a carefree life with little regard or concern for the plight of others. He must have been a charismatic figure, as it seems he drew others to him and to his carefree existence. But then through a series of disappointments and failures he came to realize there was more to life than his personal satisfaction and enjoyment.
According to the legend of St Francis it was an encounter with a leper that prompted him to finally understand his need for conversion. He then found himself praying in a disused and crumbling church where he believed he heard the voice of Jesus tell him to "rebuild the church."
He initially thought he was being called to rebuild that particular church. Acting on an impulse he took fabric from his father's workshop to sell and raise the funds for the repairs. His father was angered by his actions and he dragged him before the Bishop, and demanded he give the money back. Francis stripped off his clothes and disavowed his father.
He went on to rebuild the church with his own hands. When he began to preach people were attracted to his work and ministry and eventually a community grew up around him.
His life and the life that he taught those who joined him was a life of simplicity and communion with nature. There are many stories of his interactions with animals and with his understanding of his oneness with nature.
The brotherhood he founded grew to 5,000 in 10 years. But this brought pressure from outside of the order seeking to have it conform to less strict demands. The broader church at the time was struggling with scandal and avarice and needed reform. Eventually Francis resigned as the leader of the order and became one of the brothers. He is said to have had a vision and to have the marks of Christ's crucifixion appear on his body.
Then he began to go blind and the Pope ordered that his eyes be cauterized to treat the illness. Francis became blind and never really recovered from the illness and surgery. He eventually died at the age of 45.
I found great information about Francis on Catholic website and learned some new things about him. As I was thinking about his life and ministry I was struck by how radical his ideas seem in our world today.
I found it interesting that he was seen as someone who worked within the church and its structures. One quote I found really intriguing: "Francis was never a priest, though he was later ordained a deacon under protest. Francis was not a reformer; he preached about returning to God and obedience to the Church. Francis must have known about the decay in the Church, but he always showed the Church and its people his utmost respect."
But as his community grew Francis knew that he would need a way to unify those who came and he developed a "Rule of Life."
"Francis knew he now had to have some kind of direction to this life so he opened the Bible in three places. He read the command to the rich young man to sell all his good and give to the poor, the order to the apostles to take nothing on their journey, and the demand to take up the cross daily. "Here is our rule," Francis said -- as simple, and as seemingly impossible, as that. He was going to do what no one thought possible any more -- live by the Gospel."
I love the last sentence in that description from the website: "He was going to do what no one thought possible any more -- live by the Gospel."
That really made me pause when I read it. I found myself having to consider how challenging that simple sentence is.
Francis' life of simplicity is radical today as it was when he proclaimed it to the church of his time.
But I was encouraged by the other aspect of Francis' life that was highlighted in the website information. Francis experienced great moments of joy and his life was touched by the simple pleasures of communing with animals and nature.
Francis responded to his blindness and suffering when he wrote his beautiful Canticle of the Sun that expresses his brotherhood with creation in praising God.
The Canticle of the Sun or Canticle of the Creatures
Most high, all powerful, all good Lord! All praise is yours, all glory, all honor, and all blessing. To you, alone, Most High, do they belong. No mortal lips are worthy to pronounce your name.
Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures, especially through my lord Brother Sun, who brings the day; and you give light through him. And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor! Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.
Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars; in the heavens you have made them, precious and beautiful.
Be praised, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air, and clouds and storms, and all the weather, through which you give your creatures sustenance.
Be praised, My Lord, through Sister Water; she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.
Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Fire, through whom you brighten the night. He is beautiful and cheerful, and powerful and strong.
Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth, who feeds us and rules us, and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.
Be praised, my Lord, through those who forgive for love of you; through those who endure sickness and trial. Happy those who endure in peace, for by you, Most High, they will be crowned.
Be praised, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death, from whose embrace no living person can escape. Woe to those who die in mortal sin! Happy those she finds doing your most holy will. The second death can do no harm to them.
Praise and bless my Lord, and give thanks, and serve him with great humility.
A couple of weeks ago when I was speaking about our opportunity to be advocates for our brothers and sisters I read the prayer attributed to St Francis to end my message. I would like to read it again today as we remember Francis of Assisi:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.
Bishops & Father Mike