Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, one of the greatest saints of the Church and one of the most well-known saints that we have. He was the founder of the Franciscan religious order, distinguished by their brown habits and simple lifestyle dedicated to the Lord, and his was also the name taken through inspiration, by our current Pope and Vicar of Christ on earth, Pope Francis.
St. Francis of Assisi is well known for his love and devotion to God, and through his numerous good works and contributions for the sake of the Church of God and His people. He was known to be a miracle worker as well, healing many through his ministry, both physically and spiritually. He was honoured with the presence of the stigmata, or the wounds of Christ, on his hands and his feet.
St. Francis of Assisi was born of a rich silk and textile merchant, and lived a life of privilege in wealth and complete sufficiency, with no reason to be worried about his life in this world, having all his needs fulfilled. His father wanted him to continue his business as his heir, but the Lord had a different plan for St. Francis.
One day, when St. Francis was praying in a somewhat dilapidated Church, the Lord appeared to him and said, “Rebuild My Church”. St. Francis misunderstood this as rebuilding the dilapidated church building he was praying in, with leaking roofs and dilapidated walls. Therefore, he went and sold some of his father’s expensive silk clothes and fabrics, and used the money to rebuild that church where God had spoken to him.
His father knew about the incident and he was angry at St. Francis for his actions. St. Francis sought the local bishop for protection and counsel, and when his father complained to the bishop regarding St. Francis’ behaviour, St. Francis chose to leave everything he had ever received from his father, including his clothings. He removed all that and were naked before everyone, and before his father and the bishop. St. Francis gave the clothings and the other of his former possessions to his father.
The bishop, visibly touched by what he saw, covered St. Francis’ naked body with his vestment, and since that day onward, St. Francis abandoned all the former privileges he had in his former lifestyle as the son of a rich silk merchant, and become truly a servant of God and a disciple of Christ. One day, when he prayed, he received a vision of Christ crucified, and miraculously, he received the holy wounds of Jesus on himself, as the first known stigmatist.
As we all know, St. Francis went on to be the founder of the Franciscan order, whose members vow themselves to live in complete simplicity and humility, donning brown robes and sandals to show their commitment both to the Lord and to the poor. St. Francis was well-known for his dedication and service to the least in the society, the poor and the ostracised, the sick and the unloved, following the example of Christ Himself who gave Himself to these people whom many in the society looked upon in disgust and rejection.
St. Francis also championed evangelisation of the Gospel of Christ, and worked hard on his own part, to bring the Gospel to those who have yet to hear it or those who still lived in the darkness. He laboured hard for the sake of God and His people. St. Francis was also well known for his ability to speak to animals, and such is his love for God’s creations, that he also preached to those animals.
In today’s readings, we are urged to realise and know the love that God has for us, and the need for us to be proactive in love, both in loving God and in loving our fellow brothers and sisters. And the need for faith and obedience in God. We cannot be creatures of apathy and evil, but we must be full of love, sympathy, compassion, and faith, both in God, and in one another. That is what the Lord wants from us, and that is what He hopes that we will do, that we, as His children, truly are beings of love, as St. Francis of Assisi himself had done, in his love to all, men, animals, and all creations of God alike.
Therefore, brethren, let us reflect on our own lives, on our own actions and dealings with others, on every word that came out from our mouths and uttered by our tongues, whether they are filled with love, care, and compassion, or whether filled with darkness, viciousness, hatred, apathy, and evil. We are often at unawares that our actions do not reflect love, for either God or for our fellow brethren. We often indulge ourselves with our own selves and immerse ourselves in the depth of our pride and even arrogance, that we neglect others and the Lord, to fulfill our own selfish desires.
We need to open our hearts to love, and following the example of St. Francis of Assisi, to throw aside our sense of vanity and selfishness, to be loving servants of the Lord, to show love in everything we say, in everything we do, and in all our dealings with others and in our dedication to God our Father. Let us take this opportunity to make living the faith we have in God, that we do not end up being just empty in our faith and dedication, but instead having a living and dynamic faith, one that is anchored and strengthened by love.
May the Lord who is love and compassion inspire us to be loving and compassionate as St. Francis of Assisi has done himself, that is to love all men unconditionally, especially those who are poor, rejected, and reviled by the society. We ought to follow his examples and listen to the Lord who heeds us to love, and to follow his commandments, that itself is love. May we remain faithful and loving despite all the oppositions in this world, and despite all the evils and temptations presented to us, to be selfish and to be unloving. God be with us all, always, and may St. Francis of Assisi continue to intercede for us sinners’ sake. Amen.