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.
It is essential to comprehend that Francis had never thought to pick and choose aspects of the life of Christ to dress himself up in, but rather had chosen something that I would say is much harder because there is far less control in it: he had chosen, simply, to follow. Francis chose to move forward step-by-step in the footprints of the Lord, which I say is dangerous, because who can know where it will lead?
The world seeks freedom in the accumulation of possessions and power. It forgets that the only people who are truly free are those who have nothing left to lose. Despoiled of everything, detached from everything, they are “free from all men” (1 Corinthians 9:19) and all things. It can be truly said that their death is already behind them, because all their “treasure” is now in God and in him alone. The people who are supremely free desire nothing and are afraid of nothing. All the good that matters to them is already guaranteed them by God. They have nothing to lose and nothing to defend. These are the “poor in spirit” of the Beatitudes, detached, humble, merciful, meek, peacemakers.
Jesus, help me to be rooted in you when I respond to those around me.
Help me to detach myself from expectations, negative thoughts from myself and others, and attach myself to you.
Help me become an anomaly like you, someone entirely moved and influenced by the Father’s will, not my own or the will of others around me.
When we put ourselves and our ideas aside, we work with the Creator, for whom no need is too small and for whom love knows no limits. It is the great secret.
God still calls us today to bear witness to Jesus through acts of generosity and loving service that are in line with our circumstances. We have to be willing to let God make us uncomfortable!!!! We have to say, “God, here are my plans, take the wheel of my life.” If we truly let God take the wheel and dare to serve others, God won’t leave us in need either.
That’s why the Lord’s Prayer bids me die, and why I must pray for it. That need springs from the first garden with the old Adam, the old Eve, asserting their wills against the strictures of a will they would not recognize. It is the will of the old unwashed self that must be put to death daily in baptism.
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.
Thus we find the SFO Rule (Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order, 1978) is not as specific or as secure as the former rules, but perhaps in the long run it is more demanding. It calls for an intense and personal relationship with God and a mature decision to be responsible for one’s own actions. It suggests a creative mind to seek out new and better ways of acting and an open-ended stance that says, “Just doing this or that isn’t enough for fulfilling the demands of gospel life, my potential is limitless!”
~ Benet A. Fonck, OFM, Called to Proclaim Christ
What does Francis’ experience say to us today? What can we all imitate of him right now? Be it those that God calls to reform the Church by the way of holiness, be it those who feel called to renew her by way of criticism, be it those who he himself calls to reform her by way of the office that they hold? The same thing from which Francis’ spiritual adventure began: his conversion from the I to God, his denial of self. It is thus that true reformers are born, those who really change something in the Church, people who are dead to themselves. Better still, those who decide seriously to die to themselves, because it is an enterprise that lasts the whole of life and also beyond, if, as Saint Teresa of Avila said jokingly, our self-love dies 20 minutes after us.
~ Father Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M. Cap (preacher of the pontifical household), 1st Advent Homily 2013: “To prepare ourselves for Christmas in the company of Francis of Assisi” via ZENIT