THE GOSPEL OF JESUS
THE EXAMPLE OF SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI
Nexus prayer has been a part of my daily spiritual activities for more than three years now. During that time, God has been ever-so-slowly transforming me from the inside out as I’ve spent quality one-on-one time just listening to him in prayer. As a result, I believe I’m a kinder, gentler, and wiser version (he said humbly) of my former self. That’s not so surprising since I’m convinced that the more time we spend with Jesus, the more we become like Jesus.
But what has been surprising this year is my increased awareness of and interest in all things Franciscan. Perhaps I should not be so shocked by my attraction to Saint Francis as I’ve worn a San Damiano cross for over twenty years, and as mentioned previously, most of the spiritual mentors who have been busy planting seeds in my soul for years are all Franciscans – John Michael Talbot, Richard Rohr, and Murray Bodo to name just a few. I just never thought of myself actually becoming a Franciscan. Until now.
“The more time we spend with Jesus, the more we become like Jesus.”
The Franciscan vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, along with their companion values of simplicity, humility, harmony, compassion, service, and prayer all resonate with me. Those admirable qualities notwithstanding, there are several important reasons why I am compelled to embrace a Franciscan lifestyle today, and why I have been prayerfully discerning a call to a Franciscan vocation. In fact, I was just recently accepted (October 2018) as a candidate by an Anglican Franciscan Order and am currently in formation to become a Franciscan Friar (more on this exciting development coming here soon!) But I digress. All of these Franciscan virtues (Jesus’ virtues really) will be explored in future posts to my journal. For now, however, suffice it to say that there are several important reasons I feel led by God to begin walking in this new direction…
THE DIVIDED STATES OF AMERICA
First, because perhaps like no other time in the history of our country, many of our government leaders and people in our society (including Christians) seem to reflect the divided states, rather than the United States of America. Whether the issue is immigration, race, same-sex-marriage, gun control, religion, gay rights, women’s rights, or the plethora of other human injustices, the current social and political climate have never been more polarizing. Us versus them.
Second, thanks to nexus prayer, I believe I am closer to God than ever before and clearly hear His call to be obedient to step forward as an advocate for all the disenfranchised and vulnerable members of our society wherever I am able. I desire to be a voice of love and peace in contrast to so many who are stoking the flames of hatred, bigotry, and racism. I can’t do everything, but I can do something and believe it is my Christian responsibility to do so. James 4:17
Finally, I feel led to walk down this path today in imitation of Christ (and St. Francis) because I believe as Christians we are called…
- To recognize the human dignity of every person as created in the image of God. Genesis 1:26-27 | Genesis 2:7
- To be good stewards of our planet and take good care of God’s creation. Genesis 1:1-31
- To share God’s unconditional love for all, and be a light in the darkness. John 3:16 | Matthew 22:36-40 | I John 4:7-12
- To live the Gospel radically for “the least of these” Matthew 25:34-45 | Matthew 5:16
- To be advocates for justice for the most vulnerable in our society: the poor, aged, sick, homeless, refugees, immigrants, and victims of sex and human trafficking. Isaiah 61:1 | Matthew 25:34-40
- To be peacemakers. Matthew 5:9 | Matthew 5:11-17
To this end, I’ve already taken steps in my life to be the hands, feet, and voice of Christ in my generation, just as I believe Saint Francis did for his. In other words, the prayer usually attributed to Saint Francis has also become my prayer:
Lord make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy
not so much seek to be consoled as to console
to be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to eternal life
Image Credit | Saint Francis of Assisi
The oldest surviving depiction of Saint Francis is a fresco near the entrance of the Benedictine abbey of Subiaco, painted between March 1228 and March 1229. | In Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons and License Art Libre.