Motivated by the power of the gospel, Secular Franciscans are called to unfold the living Christ and bring his message to all people regardless of age, race, creed, economic status, or the like. Especially worthy of consideration are the displaced persons and the unchurched and others in situations which make it difficult for them to appreciate what the Church is trying to do to reveal the presence of Christ and safeguard their God-given rights and dignity.
The world needs this Franciscan spirit, this Franciscan vision of life. It is expected that you, beloved children, know it deeply, love it with passion, above all that you live it with the perfection that your state allows.
The Incarnation then for (St.) Francis becomes the first moment of experiencing the greatest love possible and becomes the one single and most important event in all human history. God is physically with us as one of us, able to touch and be touched and showing us our salvation. God’s love continues without condition all the way to the cross, where not even life is more precious than the continued outpouring of unconditional love which does not fade in the face of diversity.
~ Bob Fitzsimmons, OFS, “St. Francis and His Approach to Divinity” (FUN Manual)
Francis and his brothers in faith were then — and they remain today — a confirmation of how God renews the Church through a kind of gentle rebellion against the world; an uprising of personal holiness; a radical commitment to Christian poverty, chastity and obedience in service to the Church and the poor.
The Franciscan revolution of love teaches a lesson that Catholics too often forget. Rules, discipline, and fidelity to doctrine and tradition are vital to the mission of the Church. But none of them can animate or sustain Catholic life if we lack the core of what it means to be a Christian. If we really want God to renew the Church, then we need to act like it. We need to take the Gospel seriously. And that means we need to live it as a guide to our daily behavior and choices – without excuses.
Christian discipleship is not about how generous we feel, or our good intentions, or even how well we do certain religious duties. It’s about being converted in our lives according to the pattern of Jesus Christ.
Now, the easy way to deal with this of course would be to ignore it. Write it off. “Oh Jesus didn’t mean that!” The truth is, I don’t know why Jesus said something that seems so harsh and even cruel. There is also no way to know exactly why he changed his mind and anything anyone comes up with is speculation at best. Regardless, it is there. It was worthwhile enough that the writer of Matthew’s gospel included it. It is always so easy to pick through what we like in scripture. We focus on the things that resonate with and mean the most to us. The parts that are difficult though, are the parts we ought to listen to the most. God is always speaking to us through every part of the Bible. Whether or not we like it, we need to wrestle with it. Why doesn’t it resonate? Why am I resisting something God might be saying to me? Is it to difficult? Does it challenge the way I live my life and the values I uphold? Spending time with the word of God, even if it means wrestling with the difficult words, opens us up to God’s revelation. We can’t just pick the easy parts. Jesus showed us clearly that following God’s will does not make for a life that is always easy.
Francis, who knew the pain of once living an empty life, models the way toward answering the question “what should I do?” His answer is to listen to God. Thanks to the gifts of technology, medicine and other sciences, we have been led to believe, given enough time and resources, that humanity can find the answer to any problem unaided. … Now we are left with a cultural milieu that can be described as absent of God, and a population that has forgotten the source of its very being. It is no wonder this generation struggles with discovering what they should do and who they are.
Francis was grounded in Christ. Francis identified with Christ. Francis put on the mind of Christ. Nothing and no one could diminish Francis’ ability to recognize his beloved Jesus in robbers and sinful friars and men and women who were dominated by desires contrary to God’s love. From his heart of compassion and love, Francis saw their deep need of God. He reached out with God’s love, which dwelt within his own heart, to touch the unknown yearning in the heart of the other.
Setting himself firmly in the footsteps of Jesus, Francis made an uncompromising demand that the brothers also abandon that power which dominates and controls. His insistence that the brothers abandon domineering power are equally as firm as the insistence that they abandon wealth: “Let all the brothers not have power or control… especially among themselves” (ER, V, 9). “None of the brothers may be treasurers or, overseers in any of those places where they are staying to serve or work among others. … Let them, instead, be the lesser ones and be subject to all in the same house” (ER, i VII, 1-3). “The brothers… [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][who] live spiritually among the Saracens and nonbelievers…[are] not to engage in arguments or disputes, but [are] to be subject to every human creature for God’s sake…” (ER, XVI, 5-6). Like Jesus before him, Francis recognized that power which controls and dominates is incompatible with compassion. The abandonment of such power is an essential precondition for compassionate redeeming love.
To be humble is to glory in the fact that we were created in love and redeemed through love in order to have a loving relationship with the Triune God who created and redeemed us, and with all creatures with whom we share life.
Note the shocking lack of qualifiers Jesus puts on that. Nothing about being deserving at all. Nothing about the hope and promise that the poor will take the charity, “make something of themselves” and then pay back. Indeed, he pronounces a special blessing on generosity and love to people who will not and cannot reciprocate.