Francis sends us to the gospel, which is, at the same time, both beginning and end. But, in a certain sense, the gospel also points to Francis, who shows us how to live the gospel with simplicity of heart and integrity of faith. And we Franciscans must, live the gospel; all that we are and do must be informed by the gospel, without limiting ourselves to a “careful reading” or intellectual contemplation.
What does it mean for Secular Franciscans “to observe the gospel”? Above all it means to know God as Father, to have Jesus Christ as the inspiration, model, and criterion of our every action, and to allow ourselves to be guided by the Spirit of the Lord. It also means to realize in our apostolates the love of others in a spirit of service; to work in a context proper to our secular state, witnessing a life of penance as continual conversion to the gospel; to realize a universal fraternity in Christ; to dedicate ourselves to the works of mercy, to the promotion of justice and peace, and to the safeguarding of creation.
Our fraternities are the nurseries where God prepares, nurtures and strengthens us for our work in the world. In these “gardens of love,” all plants (us) are unique, varied and purposeful. Each has the capacity to give honor to God and to benefit others in some way. Now temptations blow through the garden, and often the way we “rub against each other” causes us to become irritated. If we rely on, or take pride in, our own gifts, friction and division will occur. If we learn to die to self and submit to the loving care of the Gardener (and our lawful superiors), His beauty, His love, and His peace will increase in us and overflow to all the world.