In essence, whether intentional or not, Francis’s movement from a place of power, wealth, and security to a social location of vulnerability and minority reflected the kenotic character of God becoming human in the Incarnation. It was a self-emptying that made possible the condition for solidarity, as opposed to service from another social, economic, and cultural place.
There is probably no culture in which people are so unabashedly encouraged to seek power as ours. From the moment we set out on our climb to the top we make ourselves believe that striving for power and wanting to be of service are, for all practical purposes, the same thing. This fallacy is so deeply ingrained in our whole way of living that we do not hesitate to strive for influential positions in the conviction that we do so for the good of the Reign of God …. But the mystery of our ministry is that we are called to serve not with our power but with our powerlessness. lt is through powerlessness that we can enter into solidarity with our fellow human beings, form a community with the weak, and thus reveal the healing, guiding, and sustaining mercy of God.
Unlike service work or charity (as popularly conceived), solidarity requires “specific action, a style of life, a break with one’s social class.” It is perhaps unreasonable to expect most Christians to so radically adopt a position of solidarity and a life of evangelical poverty in short order, but it is not beyond their capacity to begin to reimagine what a morally just and particularly Christian life might look like and then work in ways to make that commitment an ever-more concrete reality.
And now, at the dawn of the new millennium, does the Franciscan adventure still have meaning? Does it still have any chance of success? Never has true fraternity been so longed for and at the same time so little lived. Never has the Franciscan charism been more needed than today in order to offer the total Christ to a disintegrating world which fears a brotherhood of solidarity among all human beings without exclusion.
~ Cardinal Roger Etchegaray on the occasion of the Great Franciscan Jubilee celebrated at St. John Lateran in Rome, April 9, 2000
So let us not run from our suffering. Let us not give in to the world’s constant offering of something to numb us to our suffering and to help us deny the reality of our death. Let us enter into our suffering together, supported in solidarity, so that we may find the strength of the Resurrection as a means to enter into the suffering of the poor, the sick, and the brother and sister sinners around us. This is our saltiness. This is being the salt of the earth, returning savor to human existence and preserving what nourishes.
~ Brother Charles, a minor friar blog
Through penance he recognized his sinfulness and need for conversion. Through poverty he became aware of the human tendency to possess, as he realized his radical dependency on all things. Through humility he realized his solidarity with all creatures. Through compassion he came to feel for the things of the earth, including the tiniest of creatures. Creation became a ladder by which he could ascend to God, not by transcending creation but by embracing it as brother. For by embracing the good things of creation, Francis came to embrace the whole Christ who is the Word of the Father.
~ Ilia Delio, Franciscan Prayer