Saint Francis of Assisi – Readings

Commentary on Galatians 6:14-18; Psalm 15; Matthew 11:28-30

The Gospel reading is from a passage in Matthew in which Jesus speaks words of praise and thanks to his Father. He especially thanks the Father for revealing his message, through Jesus, not to the intellectually powerful of this world but to “the children”, the simple and even illiterate people of the world.

Jesus was surely thinking of his own disciples, most of whom were not educated people. Many of them earned their livelihood as fishermen.

And how did they get the message?

No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. (Matt 11:27)

It is Jesus who, through his life and teaching, has revealed God to the world. But his message does not reach everyone. Only to those who are ready to hear it. It is the readiness and docility to hear that makes it possible for one to know Jesus and his Father.

Francis, who came from a wealthy family, could have had the best education that money could buy. But he chose a very different kind of life, a life in solidarity with the uneducated poor. It was his total openness to the call of the Gospel that made it possible for him to be filled with its spirit and to live it out in a very striking and inspiring way.

The First Reading comes from the concluding lines of Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. The first sentence in particular perfectly echoes the spirituality of Francis:

May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.

This was the heart of Paul’s life and also of Francis’. Apart from Christ and the love he showed for us on the Cross, all else was rubbish and of no account.

Paul has no time for purely external expressions of religion:

For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything, but a new creation is everything!

In this letter he particularly deals with some Jewish Christians who want to impose circumcision on all Christians, including non-Jews. Paul, himself a circumcised Jew, would have none of it. The message of Jesus had moved to a higher plane, where such external signs were irrelevant. What mattered was where the heart was.

In the case of Francis, too, his holiness is to be measured, not by the external signs of his stigmata, but by his deep love of Jesus as shown by his passionate following of the Gospel. For us, too, it has to be the same.

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