Memorial of Saint Francis of Assisi Lectionary: 459
Meditation of St. Francis of Assisi By Francisco de Zurbaran
Reading 1 Bar 1:15-22
Responsorial Psalm PS 79:1b-2, 3-5, 8, 9
Gospel Lk 10:13-16
How are you feeling about your life? Are you happy and at peace with yourself and in all that you do? The irony is that we might appear happy and successful, yet deep within we remain unhappy and we know that our life somehow is in a mess even though many do not know how much we are struggling. Why is there a struggle within our hearts if not for the fact that we are not living a life of integrity? It is similar to the experience that St Paul went through when he wrote in his letter to the Romans, “For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing.“ (Rom 7:18-19) In other words, we are not true to ourselves. We lack consistency in our lives. Indeed, this was the same acknowledgement of the people of Israel. The prophet Baruch wrote, “Integrity belongs to the Lord our God; to us the look of shame we wear today, to us, the people of Judah and the citizens of Jerusalem, to our kings and princes, our priests, our prophets, as to our ancestors.”
What are those sins that are so insidious and destructive to the peace and joy in our lives? The most fundamental of all sins is that of idolatry. The sin of Adam and Eve, of wanting to be like God without God, is basically the sin of idolatry. It is connected with the sin of pride of wanting to take charge of our own lives instead of submitting to the will of God. Idolatry leads to the worship of self, our ego and focusing on our individual needs. Pride of course leads to disobedience.
This was the same sin of the Jews during the time of Jesus. Hence, Jesus cried out, “Alas for you, Chorazin! Alas for you, Bethsaida!” Why were these two towns particularly singled out? They were proud and arrogant because of their status. What is even worse for us is that besides being blind, we are too proud to see our failures and weaknesses. Like those in Capernaum, we hold our heads high and are too self-righteous to see the need for conversion. The truth is that we all need conversion. The danger is that just like the Jews, we do not feel any real need for repentance. Lukewarm and nominal Catholics feel quite happy with their response to the Lord. Hence, the urgency of conversion does not seem that real to us. We do not feel the necessity of growing in virtues and grace. Since we are not truly sorry for our sins, we do not feel the need for conversion.
As a consequence we reap the effects of our sins. Many of our unhappiness and misery in life come from bad decisions that we, or those in charge of us, have made. At least the Israelites recognized that the sufferings they were going through were the consequence of their folly. The Israelites in exile confessed their sins when they reaped the consequences of their failure to change. Indeed, they admitted that the disasters they experienced were because they “have sinned in the sight of the Lord, have disobeyed him, and have not listened to the voice of the Lord our God.”
For many of us, instead of admitting our responsibility we blame others, and even God, for the suffering that has come upon us. Some even become resentful of God, as if God was responsible for the abuse of their freedom. By not admitting our sins and taking responsibility for our disobedience because of our pride, we only prolong our misery instead of coming to realization and start living the life we are called to live; one that is consistent with who we are, the people of God, a life lived in total surrender to God and in loving service to our fellowmen. So with the psalmist, with a sincere and contrite heart, we must make the same plea, “O Lord, deliver us … and pardon our sins for your name’s sake.” The question is, are we serious about changing our lifestyle and being delivered from our sins, especially the false gods we serve in ourselves? Because we find it so difficult to do the right thing, quite often, God in His mercy allows us to suffer the consequences of our sins so that giving up sins will not be that difficult.
Today, we are invited to take the cue from the first reading. Like the Israelites, we must realize that sufferings are meant to awaken us from our sleep and folly. Instead of taking kindly the signals from the Lord that He is patient with us, we commit more sins and destroy ourselves ultimately. When we are proud and arrogant like the Jews during Jesus’ time, then Jesus warns us: “For if the miracles done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. And still, it would not go as hard with Tyre and Sidon, at the judgment as with you. And as for you, Capernaum, did you want to be exalted high as heaven? You shall be thrown down to hell.”
Truly, we must in all humility accept the punishment from God. The letter to the Hebrews says, “God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”(Heb 12:11-12)
Like the people in Chorazin and Bethsaida, we too are called to recognize the visitation of God, whether in suffering or in times of happiness. We must learn to be grateful for all the opportunities given to us to grow in faith. In fact, many of us fail to appreciate the many blessings God has given to us. We do not know how fortunate we are in Singapore until when we travel to other countries. If we are not choosy, we can certainly find a job here. Public amenities and facilities are all within our reach. On the spiritual level, we have easy access to religious education and formation, and the celebration of the Liturgy if we are truly interested. We have also seen the mighty works of God in our own lives. Some of us who are involved in the Renewal have seen the power of God at work in the miracles of healing and deliverance. Yet, having encountered the awesomeness of God, many have abandoned the Lord once again. Unfortunately, like the Jews, we have taken all these for granted. We fail to see them as the means by which God visits us. Very often, it is complacency that leads us to sin. After all, the idle mind is the devil’s workshop. When we are not occupied by meaningful activities, then our minds and hearts begin to wonder after things that can harm our soul and body.
If we want to put our house in order, we must turn to the Lord, asking for forgiveness for our sins, confident, like the psalmist, that God will forgive us our sins so long as we are contrite. Unlike us, God remains faithful to us even when we are unfaithful to Him. He does it because God is faithful to Himself. God saves us not only because He is merciful but because His very nature is Mercy and Compassion. So being faithful to His essence, God’s saving grace is certain if only we turn to Him and ask for forgiveness.
This turning to the Lord for forgiveness must at once be complemented by the desire to walk in the truth, which is found in scripture and taught by the Magisterium, the Bishops who are the authorized teachers of the Church. Jesus told His disciples that “anyone who listens to you listens to me; anyone who rejects you rejects me, and those who reject me reject the one who sent me.” We must seek the truth by submitting ourselves in humility to the appointed teachers of Christ. Obedience to the Word of God and faith in the authority of the Church to teach the Word of God authentically presupposes we have faith in Christ, since He is the One who assures us that the Church is indefectible in doctrines and morals.
Today, let us pray for a true contrite heart so that we can change our ways and heed the appeal for conversion, which is an ongoing process. In this way, we avoid falling into greater sins and the consequences of our wrong actions. God does not wish us to destroy ourselves but that we turn over a new leaf and be faithful to His voice. Let us once again listen to the voice of the prophets that God sends into our lives. The truth is spoken to us in so many ways each day. The psalmist says “Today, if only you would hear his voice, ‘Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the wilderness, where your ancestors tested me; they tried me, though they had seen what I did. For forty years I was angry with that generation’; I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they have not known my ways.’ So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’” (Ps 95:7-11)
When you surrender yourself to God’s control, you relinquish or give up any power and yield yourself totally to the Almighty God. You also allow your desires and attitudes to be challenged, and over-ruled by God. Total surrendering is saying, “Yes Lord” to whatever He asks you to do. Surrendered people obey God, even when it does not make sense to them and other people around them. You will get fantastic results when you decide to surrender totally to God, for His glory. When you let go and let God, you know you are totally yielded to God.
There are many wonderful stories about Francis of Assisi. If we can all strive to be like him just a little bit; and a little bit more each day; we can change the world…..
St. Francis of Assisi carried a human skull from time to time — to remind himself and others of the important (and brief) nature of our work here on earth.
The Imitation of Christ is one of the most widely read books in the world, after the Bible. It was written by a 15th century monk named Thomas A. Kempis. Anyone looking to increase their spirituality and to get closer to Jesus would be well advised to study and read this great book, which is available for free on line. It is a great idea to purchase a copy of this book also, to take with you to Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Spiritual reading is one thing that is recommended by a lot of saints to overcome the unholy trinity of the flesh, the devil, and the world. It is broken down in to 4 sub books, with many great chapters in each one. And the really good news is that it is very easy to read, and it will change your life in ways unimaginable.
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