At the core of Franciscan spirituality is this striving to enter into the divine heart to feel the pathos of suffering love that God feels for the world. Francis’s striving to identify with the crucified Christ was not meant to be a spiritual absorption into suffering for its own sake and should not be construed as a masochistic sanctification of pain. Rather, Francis sought to know God by abiding with God in the passion. Francis embodied and illuminated the words of St. Paul, who wrote: “In my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” (Col 1:24). Francis believed that if we claim to be the body of Christ, we are called to participate in the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus. We are called to die and be raised again in new life, not just at the end of our life but in each moment of our discipleship journey. Francis accompanies us in following Jesus in the way of the cross, the way of active love on behalf of the crucified of the world.
Furthermore, when media and the digital world become omnipresent, their influence can stop people from learning how to live wisely, to think deeply and to love generously. In this context, the great sages of the past run the risk of going unheard amid the noise and distractions of an information overload. Efforts need to be made to help these media become sources of new cultural progress for humanity and not a threat to our deepest riches. True wisdom, as the fruit of self-examination, dialogue and generous encounter between persons, is not acquired by a mere accumulation of data which eventually leads to overload and confusion, a sort of mental pollution. Real relationships with others, with all the challenges they entail, now tend to be replaced by a type of internet communication which enables us to choose or eliminate relationships at whim, thus giving rise to a new type of contrived emotion which has more to do with devices and displays than with other people and with nature. Today’s media do enable us to communicate and to share our knowledge and affections. Yet at times they also shield us from direct contact with the pain, the fears and the joys of others and the complexity of their personal experiences. For this reason, we should be concerned that, alongside the exciting possibilities offered by these media, a deep and melancholic dissatisfaction with interpersonal relations, or a harmful sense of isolation, can also arise.
As National Minister, I cannot mandate love or joy, so I will defer to our Lord and Master Jesus Christ. After washing the feet of his disciples, our Lord said: “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35).
This love should be seen in our joy and our caring, regardless of disagreements or contentious discussions. Without others seeing our love and our joy, how can we ever keep the people we now have or receive from the Lord new membership and life?
There is nothing else worth living for: only this infinitely peaceful love Who is beyond words, beyond emotion, beyond intelligence. Cradle me, Holy Spirit, in your dark silver cloud and protect me against the heat of my own speech, my own judgments, my own vision. Ward off the sickness of consolation and desire, of fear and grief that spring from desire. I will give You my will for You to cleanse and rinse of all this clay.
“Consider, O human being, in what great excellence the Lord placed on you, for He created and formed you to the image of his beloved Son according to the body and to His likeness according to the spirit.” (Armstrong, 2000, p. 131).
This saying, chosen from the “Admonitions” of Francis, reveals some of the reasons for his reverent treatment of every person he met. The “iconic” character of the person, as image of the “beloved Son,” created as God’s likeness, is rooted in the Franciscan tradition from its very beginnings. Our humanity does not separate us from God, but connects us to God who chose to become human in Jesus because of generous love.
As Franciscans, it is not so important what we offer, but rather the willingness to offer whatever opportunity to serve that God chooses to give us. We are all given a particular station in life which best enables us to fulfill God’s will. It is within this context of our individual circumstances that we are asked to faithfully execute our duties. The method by which we are to serve is given to us quite simply in the gospel. If We are to progress “from Gospel to Life,” we must heed these Words: “Love one another as I have loved you,” (Jn 13:14) Everything we do in the Church, our homes, the market place, the fields and in our communities must exemplify his love.
~ Karol Morton, OFS, Called to Make Present the Charism (SFO Resource Library)
For Bonaventure, as for Scotus, Christ’s redemptive work relates to the overcoming of sin, but it does so in a way that brings God’s creative action in the world to completion. This notion of redemption-completion, underscoring the primacy of Christ, allows for a broader view of salvation, one focused not on sin but on the primacy of love. In this respect, redemption is creative; it is that healing of the brokenness within humanity and Creation that enables the cosmic process to be completed, in which completion itself is a dynamic process of continuous Creation that is oriented toward the new Creation. Redemption, therefore, is not being “saved from” but rather being made “whole for” the healing and wholeness of God’s Creation, and this wholeness is ultimately the transformation of created reality through the unitive power of God’s creative love.
That heart is free which is held by no love other than the love of God.
Francis’ reading of the gospel is of utmost relevance today. His focus and emphasis is the same as ]esus’. His life was an enacted parable, an audio-visual aid to gospel freedom. It gives us the perspective by which to see as Jesus did: the view from the bottom. He insists by every facet of his life that we can only see rightly from a dis-established position. He wanted to be poor first of all simply because Jesus was poor. But he also knew that the biblical promises were made to the poor, that the gospel could be preached only to the poor because they alone had the freedom to hear it without distorting it for their own purposes. He wanted to have nothing to protect except the love which made all else useless. “Love is not loved! Love is not loved!” he used to sigh.
The spirit of the Gospel is eminently that of the “open” type which gives, asking nothing in return, and spends itself for others. It is essentially hostile to the spirit of calculation, the spirit of worldly prudence and above all to the spirit of religious self-seeking and self-satisfaction. For what is the Pharisee but a spiritual bourgeois, a typically “closed” nature, a man who applies the principle of calculation and gain not to economics but to religion itself, a hoarder of merits, who reckons his accounts with heaven as though God was his banker? It is against this “closed,” self-sufficient moralist ethic that the fiercest denunciations of the Gospels are directed. Even the sinner who possesses a seed of generosity, a faculty of self-surrender, and an openess of spirit is nearer to the kingdom of heaven than the “righteous” Pharisee; for the soul that is closed to love is closed to grace.
~ Christopher Dawson “Catholicism and the Bourgeois Mind” via Crisis Magazine