Saint Frances of Rome – Readings

Saint Frances of Rome – Commentary on the day’s Scripture readings

Readings:  Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31; Matthew 22:35-40

Today’s Gospel passage from Matthew comes immediately after a scene between Jesus and the Sadducees who put what they thought was an unanswerable problem to Jesus.  The question concerned a woman whose husband died without producing a son.  By Jewish law, the widow was expected to marry a brother to produce an heir for the dead brother.  In the hypothesis, there were seven brothers whom the widow married one after the other without any of them producing a child. The unanswerable question: In the next life, which of the brothers is the woman’s husband?  It was no problem for the Sadducees who did not believe in an after life but Jesus did have such a belief, so what answer would he give?  Jesus replied briefly by saying that, one, there would be no marriage in the next life anyway and two, that part of the Scriptures in which the Sadducees believed speaks of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and, as Jesus says, God is a God not of the dead, the no longer existing, but of the living.

Following this encounter, some Pharisees who did not like the Sadducees or their beliefs were delighted with how Jesus dealt with them.  They then brought forward a problem of their own.  One of them, who was an expert in the interpretation of the Mosaic Law, asked Jesus: “Which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”  Apparently, it was a much discussed question.  There were more than 600 laws and they obviously were not equal in gravity.  But which was the most central?  Jesus replied by citing two passage from the Law, one from Deuteronomy (6:5) – ‘Love God with all your heart…’ and the other from Leviticus (19:18) – ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’.  Was this the answer they were expecting?  And were there two laws here and not just one?

In fact, it is very clear from the rest of the Gospel that there is indeed only one commandment here.  Love of God cannot be separated from love of neighbour.  The only way genuinely to express our deep love of God is through the love and service of every person we encounter.

Frances of Rome observed this commandment in a very high degree.  Although belonging to a privileged class, she was noted for her outstanding care of the poor and sick.

The First Reading is from the very end of the Book of Proverbs.  It describes a wife of outstanding character and the qualities which mark her out.   Just three short passages from the whole section are included in our reading.

“A wife of noble character who can find?  She is worth far more than rubies.  Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing.”  In fact, Frances did take great care of her husband although he was often away for long periods on the battlefield and, when he finally came home, a sick man, she took care of him.

“She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.”  As already mentioned, Francis was outstanding in her care of the poor and the sick.

Finally, she is praised for what really matters.  “Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised; give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”

Frances was likely a charming person and we have no mention of her physical attractiveness but it is her service of the Lord in the poor and sick for which she is remembered and honoured.

What will I be most remembered for?

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