St. Francis of Assisi

In 05 Homilies by Fr. Reid on 2014/09/26 at 12:00 AM

This coming week on October 4th, Holy Mother Church will celebrate the feast day of one of her greatest and most beloved sons: St. Francis of Assisi.

Born in 1181 to a wealthy cloth merchant, St. Francis lived a rather high-spirited life as a young man, but he soon became enamored with serving the poor…so much so that he desired to live a life of poverty himself.

The saint’s decision to live among and serve the poor provoked his father to rage, who threatened him and even beat him.

Eventually, Francis publicly renounced his father’s patrimony before the bishop, and in an act of extreme humility he gave back to his father even the clothes he was wearing, stripping himself naked in the church.

By this act of stripping himself of clothing, St. Francis not only gave up his inheritance, but he symbolically stripped himself of all worldly attachments and proved himself a worthy spouse of “Lady Poverty”, the mistress he sought so earnestly.

Clothed for the rest of his life only in the rough habit that became the trademark of the religious order he founded, St. Francis grew steadily in Christian perfection, and is said to be the saint most like Christ.

Although not a priest, but simply a deacon, St. Francis was known for his preaching, even traveling to Egypt to preach to the sultan there. But all the same, it is St. Francis who is believed to have said: “Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary use words.”

The point of the quote is that anyone who seeks to promote the Good News of the Gospel must not only speak of it, but must also embody the Gospel by the way he lives his life.

In other words, if we wish to proclaim the Gospel effectively and with integrity, we must live according to its precepts!

In our first reading from the Book of Numbers, we hear the story of our Lord bestowing upon 70 chosen men the same spirit that was on Moses so that they might prophesy.

However, two of them, Eldad and Medad, weren’t gathered with the others when the spirit came upon them, but nonetheless the spirit came upon them where they were so that they, too, prophesied.

Joshua, the young aid of Moses, objects to their prophesying away from the others and wants Moses to stop them. But Moses responds wisely: “Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets! Would that the Lord might bestow His spirit on them all!”

While not all Christians are called to preach publicly, it is our baptismal call as Christ’s followers to be prophets in our world today, speaking our Lord’s truth and doing our best to live it as well so that others might come to know our Lord.

This is the beauty of St. Francis and all the saints: they were prophets by the way they lived their lives, and we should be too! Simply by living a life of Christian virtue, especially by exercising the virtue of charity, souls are drawn to Christ and saved!

Sadly, people who live their faith openly are becoming more and more of a novelty in our society today. But the upside to this situation is that the overall loss of Christian values in our society makes our prophetic witness stand out all the more.

Although our country may be filled with churches, we can see from the assaults on religious freedom being waged by the Obama Administration and by the ever- increasing legalization and expansion of immoral acts such as abortion, euthanasia, and same-sex unions that the U.S. is no longer a Christian nation.

Even many of our brothers and sisters in the various Protestant denominations are embracing and promoting these moral evils as not only acceptable but even “good” under the misguided notion that “tolerance” and “inclusivity” are forms of charity.

Taking a rather elitist approach to Sacred Scripture and disregarding the clear denunciations of these sins by the various writers of Scripture as being unenlightened or unsophisticated, they bend and change the meaning of God’s Holy Word to agree with their social views.

This is not only academically disingenuous and morally dishonest, but it’s dangerous to one’s salvation. For we can never embrace sin as a good and hope to go to Heaven.

Christian charity requires that we be welcoming to sinners. We are called to be radically charitable to everyone, no matter what their backgrounds are or what sins they’ve committed.

Jesus Himself provides a model for us in the way he dealt with the woman caught in adultery. He did not condemn her, but rather He said: “Go and sin no more” (cf. John 8:11).

So while Christian charity calls us to welcome the sinner, true Christian charity does not tolerate sin. To the contrary, true Christian charity recognizes sinful behavior for what it is and lovingly seeks to correct it. That’s the whole point of our Gospel today.

Our blessed Lord tells us today in the Gospel that we must make a choice in our lives: either we are for Him or we are against Him. There is no middle ground between our Lord and the devil. So we must do all we can to rid ourselves of sin so that we can belong fully to God.
Because our Lord wants to show how serious this matter is, He makes some rather drastic suggestions with regard to ridding oneself of sin: “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. . . If your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. . . If you eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.”

Of course our Lord is speaking figuratively here. He doesn’t really expect us to maim ourselves. His point is that we should do everything in our power to avoid anything that leads us into sin.

Please understand, brothers and sisters, that when it comes to sin, the stakes are high. So many people today live their lives, sinning with reckless abandon, with very little reflection on the consequences of their sins.

And yet there are always consequences to our sins, whether we recognize them or not. Sin not only offends God, but it alienates us from God and makes it harder for us to love and live a holy life. But we must also recognize that our sins affect other people too.

As Christians we are one body in Christ, a fact that we celebrate and that is most perfectly realized when we receive Holy Communion. In Holy Communion we are joined not only with Jesus, but also with one another as well in a mystical union of love!

This is why only practicing Catholics in a state of grace and in good standing with the
Church are permitted to receive Holy Communion. Our sins separate us from God and one another, and the Church’s laws regarding Holy Communion illustrate this for us.

But not only does sin separate us from God and others, it also makes us less capable of helping others find their way to Jesus and His saving mercy. Sin robs us of the joy and the love necessary to win others over to Christ and His Church.

My brothers and sisters, do you wish to lead others to Christ so that they might be saved? Do you wish to be saved yourself? Then ask yourself: what is it that keeps me from being fully united with our Lord? What are my sins? And then cut off all that is sinful within yourself.

While we may never be completely free from every sin, if we are truly sorry for our sins, our Lord’s mercy and forgiveness will relieve us of our sins and heal our defects so that we may be not only His faithful followers, but His effective prophets as well!
St. Francis of Assisi, pray for us!
30 September 2012

© Reverend Timothy Reid

Fr. Reid is the pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church, Charlotte, NC

Homilies from June 17, 2012 onward have audio .
To enable the audio, please go directly to Fr. Reid’s homily homilies and select the matching date.

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