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Hold Back Nothing

In his Letter to the Whole Order, Saint Francis writes: “Let humanity kneel in fear, let the whole universe tremble, and let heaven rejoice when Christ the Son of the Living God is on the altar in the hands of the priest! O wonderful ascent, O stupendous descent! O sublime humility! O humble sublimity that the Lord of the Universe, God and Son of God, should so humbly hide himself for our salvation in what seems to be only a small piece of bread! Look, then, upon the humility of God! And pour out your hearts before him. Humble yourselves that he might exalt you. Hold back nothing of yourselves for yourselves, that he may receive your all who gave his all to you.”

—from the book Surrounded by Love: Seven Teachings from Saint Francis by Murray Bodo, OFM

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Bring the Gospel Back into Christmas

We ask ourselves, what is to be done, what can we do to bring the Christ of the Gospel back into Christmas in a way that is more than a bumper sticker slogan that ends up being mainly a political football? How can we bring the Christ of the Gospel back into our daily lives so that we actually live out the teachings of the Gospel where we first learned the story of Christ? Brother Thomas of Celano says of St. Francis, “His greatest care, his most vivid desire, his supreme resolution was to observe the holy Gospel….” And this very Gospel emphasizes over and over again the imperative of reaching out to those who, like the man in Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, have fallen among thieves, which in turn calls to mind the rapaciousness of those forces and structures that control our economy and of the many who are left by the wayside. How, then, can we today reach out to those fallen and to the thieves, as well?

—from the book Surrounded by Love: Seven Teachings from Saint Francis by Murray Bodo, OFM

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Where Lion and Lamb Lie Down

Francis looked intently, and he looked with reverence and with love. He is moved. And it is that movement of the heart that leads to action. At the very least, it leads to praise; or if what is seen is broken or hurt, it leads to the need to help the other. And that need to help for Francis is not minimal. He pushes the envelope, for example, vis--vis the lepers. He doesnt simply give them a coin or food. He goes and lives among them and works mercy with them. It is a mutual exchange. They both experience mercy. That mutual giving and receiving is, I believe, the bedrock of Franciscan peacemaking. By overcoming shame or fear; or whatever it is that is holding you back from reaching out to the poor and broken ones, you enter a startling world of sweetness of soul that is not just self-serving but that accomplishes a profound reconciliation of opposites that makes it possible to experience a new, unexpected bond with the other. And you want to stay there, not necessarily in that physical place but in that spiritual and psychological space where the lion and the lamb lie down together. Nor is the bond something static. It only endures if you continue to overcome new barriers, cross new and fearsome barriers so that you yourself become the place of reconciliation wherever you go. That kind of portable peacemaker was who St. Francis was.  

from Surrounded by Love: Seven Teachings from Saint Francis by Murray Bodo

 

 

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Persuasive Peace

Peacefulness is its own persuasion. That is the best option for those committed to living the Gospel. The Franciscan response to sin and division is to forgive myself and my neighbor, thereby becoming peaceful in my own center, and then to reach out to others and “work mercy” with them, even with those whom I find it difficult to love, who repel me in any way. We work together toward the good, or we perish as individuals, as societies and as civilizations. Saint Francis began a new evangelization in his own time, not by trying to be social reformer. He simply loved Christ and lived the Gospel, and he and his brothers became thereby catalysts for social change. They became “Holy Fools” who turned the world upside down by simply living the truth of the Gospel of Christ. Like Francis and his brothers, we all can learn to love again, even in the midst of division and war. And the map Francis gave us for learning to love is the Gospel and his own life of following in the footsteps of Christ. This map has been summed up beautifully in his Peace Prayer, a prayer he did not write but certainly is the way he prayed and lived and taught by example. It is a prayer that outlines everything that made Francis the peacemaker that he was and the model for peace that he is for us today. It is a prayer that shows us how to find the truth again, if we’ve lost it, or to continue living in the truth we’ve already found and are trying to live.

—from Surrounded by Love: Seven Teachings from Saint Francis by Murray Bodo

 

 

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The Way of the Love of God

A preference for light and beauty is one of the reasons St. Francis is attractive to us and why he was so successfully a peacemaker in his own time. It is why today his town of Assisi has been the site of peace conferences and prayer meetings to promote peace. St. Francis is seen as the gentle saint who shows us that the way to peace and justice is the way Christ has shown us in the Gospels, namely, the way of the love of God, which is THE way; and its companion is the way of love of our neighbor as ourselves. This basic Gospel truth is the message of the Gospel St. Francis finally was able to hear in the Gospel he lived and preached. He learned that if we put those two commandments in precisely that order, we easily see how and when we sin in departing from the truth and in hurting our neighbor. All truth is from God, and God’s truth is that we are to love God, and loving God will show us how to love our neighbor. Living the Gospel must start with embracing this basic Gospel truth. Only then will we, too, begin to hear the Voice of God…. It is only necessary to be true to oneself; and if it is called for, to speak our own understanding of what the truth is without denigrating others. Peace is achieved more effectively by trying to bring out the best, not pointing out the worst, in others. And we bring out the best in others by being ourselves peaceful. Our own peaceful presence will do more than trying to persuade others that we are right and they are wrong.

—from Surrounded by Love: Seven Teachings from Saint Francis by Murray Bodo

 

 

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A Love Purified by the Love of God

In Francis’s life, it was the crucified Savior who spoke to him from the cross of San Damiano and whom he saw in lepers. And it was the crucified Savior he first fell in love with. The suffering Jesus moved him to tears, and in pity and compassion he wanted to join Jesus in his suffering to show how much he loved him. And so he did “foolish” things at times to show his love, to keep focused and faithful to the Christ who revealed  himself to a shopkeeper’s son who longed to be a knight and ended up choosing instead to be a happy beggar who sang songs of love and lived and preached the Gospel of the love of God who was made real for him in the words and life of God’s Son. The human condition being what it is, love in the end involves a choice to love the Love that created and redeemed us, even in the face of affliction, abandonment, and death. “And that, Brother Leo, is perfect joy, a love purified by the love of God.” That is the secret and perfect teaching of St. Francis of Assisi.

—from the book Surrounded by Love: Seven Teachings from Saint Francis

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