Even though this is the 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time, it is also the Feast of St. Francis, a Saint for all times and all peoples. He is the one Saint everybody loves because he surrendered his life to living the gospel in a most radical way. The Catholic faith formed him and nurtured him, but it was Christ’s Passion that made him passionate in love.
Francis had a vision that spoke first in witness and concrete actions before teachings and doctrines. At the same time, he was devoted to his catholic faith and its teachings. Gazing at a Byzantine crucifix in the church of San Damiano in Assisi, he heard Christ speaking to him, telling him to “repair my Church,” referring to the institution’s moral decay and decadence. The church and its ministers and structures desperately needed reform and Francis was the catalyst that ignited the fire of love.
These times of a pandemic, violence rooted in racism, an election becoming increasingly alarming to watch and our President coming down with COVID 19, everything seems to be upended, causing confusion and anxiety. Nothing seems as certain as we thought; the world as we knew it before the pandemic and this election is fading away.
Francis faced a world and church in much worse shape than ours today. He challenged archaic structures and outdated ways of expressing the catholic faith. There were wars, violence, an uneducated laity, a new economy based on the exchange of goods and money gradually overshadowing feudal structures of power, and the growth of Islam.
Francis faced all these challenges and many more with hope and living out his vision that the gospel CAN be lived in a most radical way by EVERYONE. His love reached out to those not in the church, to Muslims, lepers, the heretic and ornery I shops and Cardinals. He even met with the Pope and totally changed his heart!!! It can happen!!!
Francis is perfect for our times and for all times. May he be a beacon of hope for us as we create a new vision for humanity, a vision that gathers us in unity, not of religion or faith, but love.