The proclamation of the Word of God has Christian conversion as its aim: a complete and sincere adherence to Christ and his Gospel through faith. Conversion is a gift of God, a work of the Blessed Trinity. It is the Spirit who opens people’s hearts so that they can believe in Christ and “confess him” cf. 1 Cor 12:3; of those who draw near to him through faith Jesus says: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” Jn 6:44.
From the outset, conversion is expressed in faith which is total and radical, and which neither limits nor hinders God’s gift. At the same time, it gives rise to a dynamic and lifelong process which demands a continual turning away from “life according to the flesh” to “life according to the Spirit” cf. Rom 8:3-13. Conversion means accepting, by a personal decision, the saving sovereignty of Christ and becoming his disciple.
As Christian women and men, we recognize a future that is not limited to our present condition. While we should work to alleviate suffering in the world and in our own lives, its eradication is impossible. In light of the Gospel and Francis’s instruction, we recall that God remains with us and works through us in ways we do not completely understand. It is by trusting in the Lord that we are able to bear all in peace.
If there is a word which does complete justice to Franciscan theology and spirituality, it is ‘Christocentric,’ and they have this as their distinguishing feature, because the faith and holiness of St. Francis were totally centered on Christ. In Jesus Christ the revelation is made to us of what the world, as a whole and in all its parts, means to God.
~ Eric Doyle, “Saint Francis of Assisi and the Christocentric Character of Franciscan Life and Doctrine” (Franciscan Christology
The life of the Poverello (St. Francis) may seem more cheerful and more peaceful than that of some of the other saints. But truth is he was the saint of excesses: excess in sacrifice, excess in love: and it was by reason of his excesses that he held to the happy medium, because his disregard for moderation worked both ways, just as a scale insures better equilibrium the longer it is on both sides.
Francis is the saint of excesses and yet he is the saint with a smile, because he always fused the two. For him, penance was love, and sorrow ‘perfect joy.’ Using this standard, folly was wisdom and excess supreme moderation.
~ Martial Lekeux, OFM, Short-Cut to Divine Love
That is why we tell everyone: “Come and see!” In every human situation, marked by frailty, sin and death, the Good News is no mere matter of words, but a testimony to unconditional and faithful love: it is about leaving ourselves behind and encountering others, being close to those crushed by life’s troubles, sharing with the needy, standing at the side of the sick, elderly and the outcast… “Come and see!”: Love is more powerful, love gives life, love makes hope blossom in the wilderness.
With this joyful certainty in our hearts, today we turn to you, risen Lord!
Pope Francis, Easter ‘Urbi et Orbi’ Message
Easter is a time to see and a time to join the general dance of creation. To remember not only that which has been fulfilled in Christ’s death and resurrection, but to recall also what St. Francis said in recalling that in the Incarnation we have the promise that salvation is at hand. For, as Merton writes, “The Lord made the world and made humanity in order the He Himself might descend into the world, that He Himself might become human. When He regarded the world He was about to make He say His wisdom, as a man-child, ‘playing in the world, playing before Him at all times.’ And He reflected, ‘My delights are to be with the children of humanity.’”
God has entered our world as one of us, drawn close to us out of a self-emptying desire and love, assumed all of our reality, and consecrates it completely in the Resurrection, where now creation and divinity exist eternally as one. Merton continues: “For in becoming human, God became not only Jesus Christ but also potentially every man and woman that ever existed. In Christ, God became not only ‘this’ man, but also, in a broader and more mystical sense, yet no less truly, ‘every man.’”
~ Daniel P. Horan, OFM, Easter is about the General Dance | Dating God.
We must allow our love for one another to overpower our love of being comfortable, and we must step out and stand beside the people who are rejected and alone, and wipe their faces. We may not be able to remove their suffering completely, but we can offer them hope by showing them that we are willing to risk our own comfort and reputation to be with them in their pain. This is something that we can do every day, with every person that we encounter, because everyone has some pain and loneliness within them. When we perform small acts of compassion, we are showing them that they are not alone, and that they are loved. I believe that God resides in all of us. This means that when we follow Veronica’s example and wipe the faces of the suffering, we are wiping the face of Jesus.
We adore you and we bless you, Lord Jesus Christ, here and in all the churches which are in the whole world, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.
~ St. Francis of Assisi
We must renounce the desire to have a God we can handle. We can be like people at a seaside resort who prefer the man-made swimming pool with its easy temperature, safety, and amenities. After all, it is sea-water! And a little beyond is the open sea, untrammelled, untameable, over which we have not control whatever. But it is to this sea that we must commit ourselves and let ourselves be carried away. It is terrifying, this immense sea that is God.
~ Ruth Burrows via Heather King
Plans that we hold too dearly to do not give God room to operate in our lives. They clutter us up and create blockades to the most primal part of our inmost being—the part where God speaks and through which (if the barricades are down and the lines are open) the divine plan may show itself.
There is a paradoxical kind of power in being willing to sweep away the idols we make of our plans. When Saint Paul writes that “for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor 12:10), he is telling us when he surrenders the notion that he could accomplish anything on his own, he discovers that God, working through him, does wonders beyond his own meager imaginings. It is precisely the same with our plans. When we stop insisting upon them and permit God to throw us a curve, and answer it with trust, wonders come our way.
From the hills and plains, from cities and farms, they come in every age; clergy, religious, laity, treading the road to holiness in the footsteps of the little poor man of Assisi. Working together in love and mutual support, they throw the meaning of Christ’s love into those corners of the marketplace where huddle the poor, the friendless, God’s little neglected ones.
Franciscans are simple people whose many-faceted lives are directed toward “becoming like little children.” Working hour by hour, at varying tasks under various conditions, they seek only to stand as a diversion from the pettiness of the world, and by their living the gospel life after the manner of Francis, encourage others to follow.
We do not simply just fall deeper and deeper into our faith after our baptism or initial conversion. We are called to keep jumping. We talk of that “leap of faith,” but our reality is one of multiple leaps, every day. Tiny jumps, or steps, even, sometimes just the distance it takes for our feet to go from the bed to the floor. It is that forward motion that keeps us going, that keeps saying that today will be better. Today I will try harder. Today I might fail. But I am still loved.
And if our whole lives have to be made subject to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, if we desire to make all his words as far as possible our guide in the circumstances of our life, this will only be possible if we make creating silence an integral part of our life.
The post-Christian world has been inoculated against Christianity because, over 1500 years, we never managed to give it true Christianity. “Found difficult and left untried,” indeed. And this is to our demerit. There are also many, many things over these 1500 years to be proud about, and Christendom, for all its flaws, was probably better than the alternatives. But now we’re reaping what we’re sowing. We created this generation of post-Christians whom we vaccinated against Christianity. Thankfully, viruses mutate and occasionally beat vaccines.
In the meantime, if our aim is a fantasy of Christendom rather than Christ and His Cross, we are being idolaters.
But the plain truth is this: love is not matter of getting what you want. Quite the contrary. The insistence on always having what you want, on always being satisfied, on always being fulfilled, makes love impossible. To love you have to climb out of the cradle, where everything is ‘getting’ and grow up to the maturity of giving, without concern for getting anything special in return. Love is not a deal, it is a sacrifice. It is not marketing, it is an act of worship.
Francis never sought to retreat from or enter into a cloister apart from the world. Instead, the Franciscans were always to be deeply involved in the life and activity of the world, meeting all sorts of people where they were and living among and for them. This refusal to flee the quotidian world was a radical departure from most of the religious-community traditions of the day.
Despite all of this trouble, this overthinking, the potential for scrupulosity, I must confess: I love Lent. I love the sense of possibility the season implies. I love the symbolism that comes along with it. I love that it compels me to act, to change, to rethink how I am living, in a way that is more purposeful than at any other time of year.
Christians ought to fulfill their temporal obligations with fidelity and competence. They should act as a leaven in the world, in their family, professional, social, cultural and political life. They must accept their responsibilities in this entire area under the influence of the Gospel and the teaching of the Church. In this way they testify to the power of the Holy Spirit through their action in the service of people in those things which are decisive for the existence and the future of humanity.
~ Justice in the World, World Synod of Catholic Bishops, 1971