In a very real sense not one of us is qualified, but it seems that God continually chooses the most unqualified to do God’s work, to bear God’s glory. If we are qualified, we tend to think that we have done the job ourselves. If we are forced to accept our evident lack of qualification, then there’s no danger that we will confuse God’s work with our own, or God’s glory with our own.
Jesus chose a person [Peter] who was sincere and generous, (who was) a believer and spontaneous, who knew how to welcome Him into his boat and with Him sail away from the shore, when it was required of him. Simon abandoned the assurances of having his boat secure on the shore, to acquire the safety of sailing with Jesus. (He) witnessed firsthand the love which by the lakeside encouraged those who had followed (Jesus) there, enflaming their hearts and hopes. Overwhelmed by the growing ties between the Lord and himself and by the awakening of his People, Peter believed Jesus’s word; he rowed out into the lake and let down the nets, while his purely human experience strongly advised him against it. God had chosen a modest fisherman, one who was able to be filled with wonder, time and again, by works, wisdom, personality and extreme love of Jesus.
This is why humility, spiritual poverty, is so precious: it locates our identity securely in the one place where it will be safe from all harm. If our treasure is in God, no one can take it from us. Humility is truth. I am what I am in God’s eyes: a poor child who possesses absolutely nothing, who receives everything, infinitely loved and totally free.
Together with Pope Francis, we [the Order of Friars Minor] are called to preach the Gospel by “going out” into the world. Like Jesus and Francis, we are called to minister to the widows, the orphans, the aliens and the lepers of our day. We must continue to open ourselves to the world of the 21st century, to hear the cries of the people, and to struggle with them to confront the social, economic and environmental crises that we are facing.
Francis sends us to the gospel, which is, at the same time, both beginning and end. But, in a certain sense, the gospel also points to Francis, who shows us how to live the gospel with simplicity of heart and integrity of faith. And we Franciscans must, live the gospel; all that we are and do must be informed by the gospel, without limiting ourselves to a “careful reading” or intellectual contemplation.
… Celano makes clear the prior and more fundamental relationship upon which the gift and challenge of fraternity must be constructed: the absolute and unconditional bond of love and trust with the Lord Jesus. It is this foundational relationship that Francis came to embrace, that directed his every activity and his every choice, and that led him to a profound experience of the Trinity as a circle of love and mercy into which all of humanity and all of creation is invited to participate. The post-synodal document on Consecrated Life, Vita Consecrata (1996, par. 14) makes clear this same radical demand: that we must enter into an intimate relationship of love and trust with the risen Lord Jesus if our lives are to be transfigured, transformed by God and with Jesus. All authentic discipleship must be grounded in the experience of “intimacy with the Master,” where we see “Jesus only”(Vita Consecrata, par. 14). It is when our lives are rooted in the eternal love of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit that we are able to see beyond our own personal limits and sinfulness, to see beyond the limits and sinfulness of the brothers, and to recognize the mystery of the grace of God’s uncontrollable mercy and love, which comes to console us in our difficulties and challenges us to live in the freedom of the children of God.
I feel in my bones that I will never have any peace until I kiss everything goodbye, even my highest ideals and aspirations. God only tolerates one desire where He is—that of perfectly doing His will and of being annihilated for His glory.
What does it mean for Secular Franciscans “to observe the gospel”? Above all it means to know God as Father, to have Jesus Christ as the inspiration, model, and criterion of our every action, and to allow ourselves to be guided by the Spirit of the Lord. It also means to realize in our apostolates the love of others in a spirit of service; to work in a context proper to our secular state, witnessing a life of penance as continual conversion to the gospel; to realize a universal fraternity in Christ; to dedicate ourselves to the works of mercy, to the promotion of justice and peace, and to the safeguarding of creation.
Our fraternities are the nurseries where God prepares, nurtures and strengthens us for our work in the world. In these “gardens of love,” all plants (us) are unique, varied and purposeful. Each has the capacity to give honor to God and to benefit others in some way. Now temptations blow through the garden, and often the way we “rub against each other” causes us to become irritated. If we rely on, or take pride in, our own gifts, friction and division will occur. If we learn to die to self and submit to the loving care of the Gardener (and our lawful superiors), His beauty, His love, and His peace will increase in us and overflow to all the world.
Until we can see God instead of ourselves and our own wants as the center of the universe, we cannot fully understand what the Father is offering us in Jesus. Until we decide to begin the difficult journey inward, to become fully mature in Christ, to become Eucharist blessed, broken and given for others, we cannot break out of the consumer-oriented, performance-based spirituality of ascent (“upward spiritual mobility”) and embrace the path of descent or littleness walked by Jesus and later by Francis.