“Push back against the age as hard as it pushes against you. What people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross.” ~ Flannery O’Connor
In today’s 1st Reading (Jonah 1:1-2:2, 11) we revisit the story of the “reluctant prophet” Jonah who, when given his evangelical marching orders from the Lord, to preach repentance to the wayward people of Nineveh, hopped aboard the first ship outta town in an effort to flee for the town of Tarshish. Most are familiar with this story and the chaos that ensues in Jonah’s life as he ignores the will of God https://discover.hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/Daily-Mass-Reflections-109.
If we were to reflect on this legendary Whale Tale relative to the times when we too eschewed God’s will for our own, we’d most likely agree that chaos was our fate as well. Jonah teaches us that the only way to reach places we’ve never gone is to trust God's direction to do things we’ve never done. In the words of author Germany Kent, “Let your life reflect the faith you have in God. Fear nothing and pray about everything. Be strong, trust God's word, and trust the process.”
Our Church today celebrates the great Saint Francis of Assisi, the Patron Saint of Italy, environmentalists, merchants, stowaways and of course animals. I hearken back fondly to my days in New York City when my friends and I would head uptown to 112th Street and Amsterdam Avenue to the Cathedral Church of Saint John Divine for their annual Blessing of the Animals, held every year in conjunction with Saint Francis’ Feast Day. Peacocks, geese, dalmatians, salamanders, bulldogs, turtles, basset hounds, camels even if they happen to be in town early prepping for the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular. They would all be led down the center aisle of the Cathedral for a blessing and a day of joy and celebration. And of course there was the year that I thought my imagination was getting the best of me as I swore I felt the old Cathedral shaking ever so slightly. It wasn’t until I turned around and saw an elephant being led down the center aisle by its handler, the circus having taken its annual residency at Madison Square Garden some 80 blocks south, that I knew my instincts were right.
Saint Francis was born the privileged son of a nobleman. Worldly desires were if no interest to him however. He yearned for a simpler life, an existence rooted in his love for poverty, nature, and simplicity. He would go in to establish the religious order of Franciscans, whose brothers preached and lived the gospel while working hard to bring the word of God into a world that so desperately needed it.
Saint Francis prayed for two things in his life. One that he might experience in his body, as far as the Lord would permit, the same suffering and agony that Jesus endured during his passion and death on the cross. And secondly, that he might know in his mind and experience in his heart the same love that Jesus had in his heart during his passion and while he was being crucified upon the cross. These prayers culminated in the stigmata, the physical wounds of Jesus on his hands, his feet and his side. Without first achieving and experiencing this great and profound love in his heart, which through his prayers he was granted, he would not have been able to bear the excruciating toll of the sacred stigmata.
In the closing words of today’s Gospel (Luke 10:25-37), wherein Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan so that his followers would understand genuine compassion and mercy in action, he implores the young man in his midst to “go forth and do the same.” We are all given the same instructs turn.
Not every member of Christ’s Mystical Body is called to give up everything to follow Jesus as was the wealthy Saint Francis Assisi’s vocation. This divine tapestry is woven far more intricately than that https://discover.hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/Mystici-Corporis-Christi-Revisited. But we are all called to be compassionate and merciful. The will of God in all of our lives is that we may achieve holiness and sanctification. That begins with love of neighbor. I leave you with a quote from Saint Francis if Assisi wherein he urges charity and a disregard for the fleeting things of this earth. His life mirrored his words.
Go and do likewise.
“Men lose all the material things they leave behind them in this world, but they carry with them the reward of their charity and the alms they give. For these, they will receive from the Lord the reward and recompense they deserve.”
Saint Francis of Assisi, pray for us….