St. Francis’ Gift
Tomorrow [October 4] is the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi a thirteenth century friar about whom little is known, and much is speculated and legendary. At various times of his life he was a soldier and prisoner of war, a party animal, and ultimately the founder of one of the largest religious orders in the Christian community. He gave us the Christmas Creche – replicas adorn our homes and churches to this day. He, also, gave us the first Christmas pageant complete with live animals. He is probably best known as the patron saints of animals and the environment – especially pets. Statues of him adorn many gardens.
Yet, this is not what sets St. Francis, who has been called the most Christ-like saint in the calendar, apart. What sets him apart can be found in this morning’s Gospel reading from Matthew. St. Francis is best remembered as one who sought to make the Good News available and receivable to everyone. Tradition has it that he once said to his brother friars – “Preach the Gospel always and everywhere, use words if necessary.”
In this morning’s Gospel Jesus is telling his listeners that the Good News is available to all and there are no barriers. Jesus is offering us relief from the soul-numbing ways of the world and our contemporary society. He does this by inviting all of us, individually and as a community, to embrace a transformative faith-filled pattern of discipleship that calls us to let go of everything that would keep us bound up in the world’s lies.
We are reminded of our absolute dependence upon grace – grace that empowers us to surrender to the Gospel’s message, yoke, and burden. While Jesus’ yoke and burden are light, they do carry substance and weight of responsibility.
St. Francis, like Jesus, was an advocate for the poor and the outcast. St. Francis was known to care for lepers and others who were disadvantaged because of society’s injustice. Through his ministry we are reminded that we are to be about working to alleviate the ravages of poverty and advocate for those who have no voice. St. Francis reminds us that each and every one of us is created in the image and likeness of God, and we should treat each other accordingly.
Finally, St. Francis is known as the patron and protector of animals – especially our pets. Our pets teach us that most important lesson of giving and receiving unconditional love as a reflection of the unconditional love we receive from God and are expected to offer our brothers and sisters.
So, on this Feast of St. Francis let us give thanks for the whole of God’s creation, and especially for the unconditional love offered us by our pets. Let us become the people our dogs and cats believe us to be.