04Oct 04 Oct. Thursday of Week Twenty Six

Memorial of St. Francis of Assisi, religious

(or readings from Ordinary Time: Job 19:21-2 and Luke 10:1-12 (below)

Collect: Father, you helped Saint Francis to reflect the image of Christ through a life of poverty and humility. May we follow your Son by walking in the footsteps of Francis of Assisi, and by imitating his joyful love.

Gal 6:14-18: St Paul’s close bond with Christ crucified caused him to experience the stigmata.

Mt 11:25-30: The joy that Jesus shares with those who are humble of heart.

The Poor Man who Inspired the World

Francis Bernardone was born in 1181 at Assisi, Umbria, Italy. The son of a wealthy cloth merchant, he lived a lavish and irresponsible life. At the age of twenty, he went to war against Perugia, but was captured and imprisoned. During his imprisonment he experienced a vision from Christ and changed his life completely. He left all his possessions and embraced complete poverty, taking the Gospel as his rule of life.

From his conversion, Francis wore sandals and the very simplest of clothes, begged for food and preached peace and reconciliation. He began to attract followers, and in 1209 founded the Friars Minor (Franciscans). Soon afterwards, with Clare of Assisi he founded the foundation of the Order of “Poor Ladies” (now Poor Clares.) He also founded the Franciscan Third Order for people. Two years before his death he received the stigmata (the five wounds of Christ) on Mount Alvernia. He died on October 4, 1226 in Portiuncula, Italy. He was canonized by Gregory IX less than two years later.

A longer account of St Francis’ life is online at http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/F1004S/; also, to get a flavour of his spirituality as found in the “Fioretti” (Little Flowers of St. Francis) by Fra Ugolino you can read his famous Sermon to the Birds,

“My little sisters the birds, ye owe much to God, your Creator, and ye ought to sing his praise at all times and in all places, because he has given you liberty to fly about into all places; and though ye neither spin nor sew, he has given you a twofold and a threefold clothing for yourselves and for your offspring. Two of all your species he sent into the Ark with Noah that you might not be lost to the world; besides which, he feeds you, though ye neither sow nor reap. He has given you fountains and rivers to quench your thirst, mountains and valleys in which to take refuge, and trees in which to build your nests; so that your Creator loves you much, having thus favoured you with such bounties. Beware, my little sisters, of the sin of ingratitude, and study always to give praise to God.”

1st Reading: Galatians 6:14-18

May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.  For neither circumcision nor un-circumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything!  As for those who will follow this rule – peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.

From now on, let no one make trouble for me; for I carry the marks of Jesus branded on my body.  May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen.

Gospel: Matthew 11:25-30

At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants;  yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.  All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Or: Readings of Ordinary Time:

Job 19:21ff. Job again takes his case directly to God who will appear as his vindicator.

Luke 10:1ff. Jesus sends out the seventy-two disciples to announce the reign of God.

An Urgent Mission

We sense the urgency in each of these readings. Job wants his words to be “cut in the rock forever” “with an iron chisel and with lead.” Jesus sends out the seventy-two disciples with no provisions, lest they be hampered in their keen and rapid announcement that the reign of God is at hand. Job sets aside all human means of justification and reaches out for  God’s immediate presence. Jesus announces that our best wishes will be fulfilled in the reign of God. Yet, we also know that this reign, inaugurated by the Gospel, did not lead at once to a glorious paradise but rather to the long period of church history, still awaiting the second coming of Jesus.

One text may seem to suffice at this time. Yet, we need to be prepared for the many tomorrows that lie ahead, lest we reject the Lord’s messenger, and when it is too late, we see only the dust of our mistake, shaken from the messenger’s feet. Jesus told his messengers, “If the people of any town you enter do not welcome you, go into its streets and say, ‘We shake the dust of this town from our feet as testimony against you. But know that the reign of God is near.'”

Job is faced with a once-in-a-lifetime ordeal. Human comforters, with their ancient wisdom and respected advice, simply intensified his agony. Job does not want theological explanations but called out, “Pity me, pity, O you my friends.. Why do you hound me as though you were divine?” Then he takes his case directly to God. Each of us too at singular crises may be face to face with the awesome God in the depth of our conscience.

Jesus brings us a major imperative with the message, “The reign of God is at hand.” Once we stake our very life on accepting the reign of God, then the rest of our journey through life will benefit from the gospel and especially from the presence of Jesus, “my Vindicator.. whom I myself shall see.”

 Job 19:21-27

Have pity on me, have pity on me, O you my friends,
for the hand of God has touched me!
Why do you, like God, pursue me,
never satisfied with my flesh?
“O that my words were written down!
O that they were inscribed in a book!
O that with an iron pen and with lead
they were engraved on a rock forever!
For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and that at the last he will stand upon the earth;
and after my skin has been thus destroyed,
then in my flesh I shall see God,
whom I shall see on my side,
and my eyes shall behold, and not another.

Gospel: Luke 10:1-12

After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’ I tell you, on that day it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for that town.

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