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What Do We Do With This Great Love?

Francis's own song defined love for him. It was to live and be in God’s most holy will. And Francis has learned from Christ’s own words in the Gospels what God’s will is for those who love him. They are to feed the hungry, give drink to those who thirst, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, visit the sick and those in prison. And they are to do all that for love of his love who did the same for us when he walked among us. He remembered when he was hungry and thirsty, and a stranger, and naked, sick and in prison. And there were those who gave him food and water, and welcomed him and the brothers when they were on the road, and those who visited him when he was sick, and wanted to visit him in prison and could not. Love is of the heart, Francis thought, but loving is about acting and living out God’s will revealed in Jesus Christ and in those who love him. How simple it all was if you loved the Lord. And it was good, and now he had done what was his to do. He prayed the brothers would do now what was theirs to do.

—from Surrounded by Love: Seven Teachings from Saint Francis

 

 

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Love Draws Us Back to God

Love God and do as you will, says St. Augustine, for love is its own commandment. That is how St. Francis took it and lived it. He sinned, as all humans do, but after his conversion, he always knew when he had sinned because Love’s commandment drew him back to the divine love that underpinned everything he was and did. It was not so much fear of punishment that motivated Francis but rather his commitment to him whom he loved, Jesus Christ. To separate oneself from Christ would be the sin for Francis. If he feared anything, it would have been that he would betray Christ, the love of his life.

—from Surrounded by Love: Seven Teachings from Saint Francis

 

 

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A Grand Humility

In these “Praises of the Lord God Most High” are contained Francis’s experience of God. This is who this God he has loved late and long has become for him. These praises say, “O God, this is your song, you who are beauty so old and new. Late have I loved you.” And through it all Francis has tried to return such incredible love, a return of love that, Francis being Francis, was a great, though humble, love. As he sang at the end of his “Canticle of the Creatures,” we are to praise God “con grande umilitate,” with grand humility, not a puny, wimpy humility but a paradoxically huge, grand humility. For all his littleness and humility, there was in Francis something big, a heart full of largeness and largesse. Once Francis knew God’s love, he knew, as well, what St. Augustine put so beautifully. “And you see, you were within, and I was in the external world and sought you there, and in my unlovely state I plunged into those lovely created things you have made.”

—from Surrounded by Love: Seven Teachings from Saint Francis

 

 

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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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