26th Thursday in Ordinary Time
Memorial of St. Francis of Assisi
Job 19: 21 – 27; Ps 27; Luke 10: 1 – 12
In celebrating the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, we commemorate one of the most popular saints, popular among Catholics and non-Catholics alike. In many a garden there is his statue and he oversees many a birdbath because of his love for God’s creatures.
Of course, there is much more to this saint than love of nature; he was one who took the words of the Lord Jesus so much to heart that he lived the Gospel radically, seriously and joyfully. In today’s Gospel, in Jesus’ admonition to the 72 disciples He appointed to go ahead of Him, among other things He said, “Go on you way…Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals…” Simplicity, poverty – carried out radically were to mark them as His emissaries.
St. Francis heard this, embraced and lived it all the days of his life – for him and his followers there was no other way to respond to the Lord. He and his followers, known as the Friars Minor, in strict faithfulness, bore the imprint of the Gospel in their hearts – something all of us are called to do.
In my home parish of St. Francis of Assisi, there was a picture of him above the tabernacle – he is shown turning a bit to the side with the arms crossed and the wounds of the stigmata in evidence. As an altar boy I saw that picture very closely and quite often – I can still see it. St. Francis was a marked man in his heart and in his body – he was truly imprinted into Christ.
In that he is an icon for us of what it means to believe and follow Christ faithfully. How often we are commanded in Scripture to take to heart the sacred word, to live the word with all our heart, strength and soul. In this Mass, the Lord comes to us in Word and in Sacrament and in both, especially in the Holy Eucharist, He imprints His word and His very self into our depths – how else can we live as His followers.
Of course, we need to desire this as Francis did; all the while knowing that this desire is a gift of the Lord. He desires us into desiring Him.