Sunday, October 4, 2020

St. Francis Sunday

 October 4, 2020

St. Francis Sunday

(St. Michael and All Angels)

(Revelation 12:7-12; John 1:47-51)

St. Francis of Assisi is a familiar saint for most Catholics today. How he lived his life is a worthy example to emulate. He was a radical in his time and this certainly holds appeal for the modern Catholic. It is important to remember that St. Francis’ life was one that is in radical conformity and in deep union with the sacrificial life of Christ. His life was a faithful imitation of Christ, particularly, the crucified Christ. So much so, was this, that St. Francis was marked with the stigmata of Christ that he might emulate Him completely.

How do we, as modern Catholics, follow his example of radical conformity? Christ was central in St. Francis’ life. So, too, must we make Christ central in our lives. We must put our priorities in order. The radical imitation of Christ in our daily lives should compel us to make Christ as the root or the basis of all our many decisions, big and small, every day and every moment, whether it is in our personal, public or professional lives.

Therein lies a problem - today’s society has spoiled most of us into a life of comfort, shying away from any form of pain, or selfless sacrifice. St. Francis shows us in very concrete ways how to overcome this: by embracing poverty, practicing humility, and obedience to Jesus. We must cultivate a sense of detachment from worldly possessions and attachments that push Christ out of the center of our lives.

Let me put forth some thought provoking questions – questions that would certainly be in line with Francis’ love for all of creation – in his imitation of what I frequently call the radical love of Jesus.

Do we spend too much time on the internet, social media or TV that we neglect daily prayer time with God? Are we too busy or lazy (YES, I said it!) to honor the (Christian) Sabbath and go to Mass on Sundays? Are we too busy to do corporal and spiritual acts of mercy? Are we too wimpy or self-absorbed to offer our trials and transform them to redemptive suffering by uniting these inconveniences and trials to Christ?

St. Francis’ intense and intimate union with Christ fired his missionary zeal to evangelize and save souls. He was willing to face persecution and martyrdom to share the Good News to those who have not heard or accepted God’s salvation. How willing are we to go out of our comfort zones to invite someone to attend Mass with us or share our Catholic faith? Does our lives attract or repel others to know Christ more intimately? Do we witness our Catholic faith to others with humility, love and joy as St. Francis did? How willing are we to proclaim and defend our form of the Catholic faith even if it means facing ridicule and accusations of bigotry? St. Francis received Christ’s stigmata which he bore to his dying day. Do we bear the mark of Christ with how we lead our lives and with the choices we make in every aspect of our lives, whether in private or in public? Do we have the courage of St. Francis in bearing the stigmata, the mark of Christ in our lives, in the face of pain and rejection? Are we willing and do we take a stand on social issues today – especially that of our progressive views that would seem to be out of line with our more conservative Christian brothers and sisters and support those whom they prefer to “convert” rather than accept as a fully human Christian?

St. Francis is known for his love of nature. He saw nature as God’s creation that reveals Divine glory and beauty. Do we make use of God’s creation as a means to glorify God? Do we respect nature as God’s gift to be used responsibly and for the good of others? Or do we waste or take for granted the resources we have? Do we treat our God given body as a temple of the Holy Spirit?

As we try to answer these challenging questions with humility and honesty, we realize how difficult, and yes, truly radical, the imitation of Christ is. But as St. Francis has shown us by his example, the imitation of Christ is a daily commitment that is possible only with God’s grace. All we need to do is open our hearts and invite Him to fill it with His Divine Grace, so we, too, like St. Francis, can share the Good News and renew Christ’s Church, one soul at a time.

Early writings about St. Francis tells of one of his closest companions, Brother Leo, who would get discouraged at times. Brother Leo asked Francis to write something for him that would lift up his spirits.

When Brother Leo died, a small parchment was found in his habit and is preserved to this day in Assisi. Francis wrote:

May the Lord bless you and keep you.

May the Lord let his face shine on you and be gracious to you.

May the Lord show you his face and bring you peace.

The Lord bless you, Leo.

This blessing was so comforting to Leo because it reminded him of God’s presence in his life, and the peace that comes from that presence. This gift is for all of us, too.

Francis was known as the person who most patterned his life after that of Christ’s.

It was his joy to follow the poor and humble Christ. Francis was known to practice the virtue of poverty to a high degree, owning no property, living very simply, begging for his food, living among and caring for those who were ostracized from society. He treasured Holy Poverty and guarded it carefully because he wanted nothing to get in the way of the greatest possession of all – God.

Even though we are not called to follow his example to that extent, we, too, should never forget that God is and will always be our greatest possession.

Francis spent his life serving others after the example of Jesus, who said: “I have come to serve, not to be served.” He freely gave to those in need from whatever he had.

Every human life is a gift. Each of us is a gift. The world is a gift. ALL is a gift from the one primal source, God, the giver of all good gifts.

A way to honor his memory is to reach out to those in need with the gift of your time or treasure. To take on his spirit today is to see each individual you encounter as your brother or sister, with inherent dignity, created by God and deserving of your respect and loving concern.

Let us emulate St. Francis, the patron of our humble chapel, and show the radical love of Jesus as often as we can.

Before we move on to our responsorial prayers, let us recite together the Canticle of Creation which is attributed to St. Francis. (Copy is in your bulletin.)

Most High, all powerful, good Lord, Yours are the praises, the glory, the honour, and all blessing.

To You alone, Most High, do they belong, and no man is worthy to mention Your name.

Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures, especially through my lord Brother Sun, who brings the day; and you give light through him.

And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendour! Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars, in heaven you formed them clear and precious and beautiful.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Wind, and through the air, cloudy and serene, and every kind of weather through which You give sustenance to Your creatures.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Water, which is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Fire, through whom you light the night and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Mother Earth, who sustains us and governs us and who produces varied fruits with coloured flowers and herbs.

Praised be You, my Lord, through those who give pardon for Your love, and bear infirmity and tribulation.

Blessed are those who endure in peace for by You, Most High, they shall be crowned.

Praised be You, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death, from whom no living man can escape.

Woe to those who die in mortal sin. Blessed are those who will find Your most holy will, for the second death shall do them no harm.

Praise and bless my Lord, and give Him thanks and serve Him with great humility.

Let us pray.

For the church and for world leaders. May we produce a rich, fruitful harvest of justice, compassion, mercy and forgiveness in the vineyard of this world. We pray to the Lord.

For all who have suffered rejection or violence. For those who have been hurt in any way by this pandemic and all who are depressed, suicidal or addicted. Heal our wounds; give us hope and courage. We pray to the Lord.

For a deeper spirit of gratitude for God’s many gifts. May we recognize in each other all that is truthful, just, honorable, pure, gracious and lovely. May we be people of peace. We pray to the Lord.

Instill in all people a greater respect for human life from the womb to the tomb. For an end to late term unnecessary abortion, the death penalty and all types of hatred and systemic prejudice. May we learn how to care more deeply for all human life, hear the cries of the poor, the homeless and the starving. Welcome immigrant families and children, and allow and listen to the protests of those treated unjustly. We pray to the Lord.

That we may emulate the example of St. Francis and care for all of God’s creation and greater tolerance of those different from us. We pray to the Lord.

For our government leaders who have become ill with Covid-19, that they recover promptly and have a new respect for dealing this horrible disease. We pray to the Lord.

For those on our parish prayer list, that they may receive swift answers to their needs and that they may find consolation through Christ’s healing presence. We pray to the Lord.

We bow our heads and remember in silence our own personal intentions and the intentions of those who have asked for our prayers (pause). We pray to the Lord.

Amazing God of the universe, As St. Francis learned and Your Angels know, You have called us from different walks of life. From our diverse backgrounds, You have weaved us into a family of faith and discipleship. We pray that even as You have accepted us as we are, we can learn even more how to accept and love others whose ways are different from our own.

As we open our hearts to You, show us the way to open our hearts to others. We pray, O God, that You would even challenge us to love all humankind — those we do not like and especially our “enemies.” In Your presence here, O God, may we worship together without exclusion and rejoice together always.

During this trying and challenging time, we ask that You be ever present with each of us and guide us with Your spirit, so that we do not lose hope. As we meander through life, give us direction and purpose. We ask all these things, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

God Love You +++

We are beggars – These turbulent times are economically difficult for many, and as such, non-profits see reductions of donations to keep ministries open. We ask, if you are able, to donate and help us keep our progressive voice active in our community. God Bless You +++