Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate together the feast day of a great and famous saint, St. Francis of Assisi, the founder of the Order of Friars Minor or known better as the Franciscans, the Apostle of Italy and the reformer of the faith and religious life in more than one way, a holy man and a devoted person, known for his great and tender love for all creations and for even animals and living beings, and for his asceticism and great piety.
Yet, for all the glorious deeds and renown he had in his life, he was ultimately a humble person who did not gather credit for himself, as he showed through his way of life and also how he enforced a rigorous discipline known now as the discipline of the Franciscans, who in addition of their vows of chastity and obedience to the Lord, they also took an additional vow of poverty, where all of those who joined the Franciscan order agreed to shun worldliness and material wealth forever.
It is linked to what we heard in today’s Scripture passages, where we heard two stories, both of which showed us all the importance for us to rethink our priorities in life, and ask ourselves what is it that we are looking for in this life? What is our objective and our aim in this life? The first reading from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Galatians showed him telling the people how he was converted to the faith from his old ways, and from his past of causing great harm and danger to the people of God.
St. Paul was once a great enemy of the Church and the faithful, as he was a very fanatical Jew who took his faith to the extremes, advancing the false cause of the Pharisees and the elders who opposed and rejected Jesus. He hunted down and made life very difficult for the many people who believed in Jesus and followed Him. He arrested them and gave them up to the chief priests and the Pharisees to be punished and to be made to endure suffering.
This is the past life which St. Paul came to leave behind after God called him to abandon all of them behind him and henceforth, while he was once a greatly feared enemy of all the faithful people of God, God had made him to be one of His greatest defenders. He has been awaked from the falsehoods that had clouded his mind and judgment, and therefore, he became a great saint. In the same manner, St. Francis of Assisi also had that moment of change and conversion, when God called him to serve Him.
St. Francis of Assisi was born as Pietro Bernardone, the son and heir of a rich Italian textile and garment merchant, who was influential and powerful being the member of the elite of the society, and as a power broker and as one of the owners of great wealth. The father of St. Francis of Assisi insisted that St. Francis took up the best education and preparation in order to prepare him to succeed him in his business.
But St. Francis, despite all of the good things that he enjoyed in life, the privileges that he had received since his early age, he was not satisfied with all of these. He was longing for the fulfilment which he sought, which he gradually found in the Lord through the visions which he received throughout his life. He enjoyed a life typical of the rich and the young at that time, taking part in wars as member of the military, but while his peers revel in the satisfaction and joy of such actions, St. Francis of Assisi gradually found that all of them were not what he wanted.
God spoke to him one day in a moment when he passed through a dilapidated church building, which had fallen into neglect and disrepair. God asked St. Francis to follow Him and to repair His Church. He misunderstood this as God wanting the dilapidated church building to be repaired physically. As such, he secretly took some of the expensive clothing and garments from his father’s store and sold them, and the money given to the church that it might be repaired.
His father eventually found out about this and was angry, and St. Francis escaped and took refuge in the church. His father came up to him and demanded him to account for what he had done and return him the garments and the money which had been taken from him. St. Francis repudiated his father and took off all of his clothes and garment, returning these to his father. The bishop, touched by this act, covered St. Francis with the fringes of his cope while the father left.
From then on, St. Francis of Assisi left worldly life and concerns, and became a devoted servant of the Lord. He and his fellow compatriots lived in poverty and commitment, and yet they were joyful because of that life filled with the joy of serving the Lord and His people, and the joy of knowing that in them they have found the true treasures of their life.
Jesus Himself once said also that we should not gather for ourselves treasures of this world, all those things that can run out, can perish and be destroyed by fire, by moth and by all sorts of worldly forces. Rather, we all should find for ourselves the true treasure that we can find in the Lord alone. It is by siding with God and by believing in Him that we shall find our way.
Let us all devote ourselves in the same way as St. Francis of Assisi had done. And just as Jesus had said to Martha in the Gospel today, let us all realise that there are many distractions in this world that can distract and prevent us from being able to find our way to our Lord and His salvation. Therefore, let us all be stronger and be ever more committed in our spiritual growth and development, so that through strong discipline in faith, we may be able to achieve salvation in God, and in the process help one another to reach out to te Lord as well.
There are many people in this world, our own brethren, who needs our help. We can be their guides, and indeed, God had blessed us all with the opportunities and the abilities in order to do so. Let us all follow the examples of the saints and the holy men and women who had gone to their glory before us, especially that of St. Francis of Assisi, our role model.
May God bless us all and help us in this endeavour. May He keep us always in His love and grace, and may His blessings ever be on us and our families. God be with us all. Amen.