Wednesday, February 25, 2009

God's Call for A New Community

From The Mirror of Perfection, a biography about Francis of Assisi

Francis said, “The order and life of the Friars Minor is a certain little flock which the Son of God in these last times asked of his Heavenly Father, saying, ‘Father, I wish that You should make and give to me a new and humble folk in these last times, unlike to all others who have gone before them, in humility and poverty and content to possess me alone.’ And the Father said, having heard the Son, ‘My son, that which You have asked is done.’”

Francis used to say that for this reason God willed and revealed to him that they should be called Friars Minor, because this is that poor and humble folk which the Son of god demanded of his Father. This folk the Son himself speaks of in the Gospel, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” And also, “Inasmuch as you have done it to one of the least of these, my brothers, you have done it to me.” And the Lord understood this of all spiritual poor men, yet He spoke it more especially of the Order of the Friars Minor, which was to be in his Church. And so, as it was revealed to Francis that it should be called the Order of Friars Minor, so he made it to be written in his testament and the first Rule which he took to Pope Innocent III who approved and conceded it, and afterwards announced it to all in Consistory.
-Section II, Chapter 23

What a contrast is Francis’ attitude of his people from the majority of the church! Today, we want bigger churches, bigger incomes, larger congregations, and more significant influence in the world. Francis, however, recognized that Jesus called the church to be of and among the disenfranchised, the outcast, the poor, the suffering, the lowly.

Jesus said that it was the wealthy who were to be cautioned, for “you have already received your comfort” and because “It is difficult for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus said that those who were lauded were to be unhappy for “this is how the false prophets were treated.” Francis sought out those who were willing to give up all they had to be lowly and poor and suffering and wretched. Jesus also told his disciples to be prepared for poverty, for the surrender of all we have, for injustice and for persecution. But in our teachings of the gospel, we encourage people to expect all blessings—a better life, health, wealth and honor.

Woe is us! Woe to those who preach the American gospel! Woe to those who think that they can gain everything in this world and have the next world as well! But blessed are the poor, for they shall receive the kingdom of God.

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