St. Francis of Assisi’s Joy in Serving the Lord

Luke 10: 17-24
Jb 42: 1-3, 5-6, 12-17 / Ps 119: 66, 71, 75, 91, 125, 130

Do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.
(Luke 10:20)

I asked as I knelt down to pray,
“These blessings, why do I deserve?”
I rejoiced when I heard Him say,
“Because it’s the Lord God you serve.”

The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. Yet do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” At that very moment, He rejoiced in the Holy Spirit, and said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.” (Luke 10:17-20).


Today we celebrate the feast of St. Francis of Assisi. This beloved saint belonged to a wealthy family, but renounced all his possessions to follow Jesus’ way of life in the Gospel completely and joyfully. With joy he embraced poverty and selfless service in complete obedience to what he had heard in prayer: “Francis! Everything you have loved and desired in the flesh it is your duty to despise and hate, if you wish to know my will. And when you have begun this, all that now seems sweet and lovely to you will become intolerable and bitter, but all that you used to avoid will turn itself to great sweetness and exceeding joy.”

Why is it that most of the Protestants and born-again Christians we meet exude an aura of joy and gladness of spirit that is in stark contrast to the solemnity and seemingly gloomy atmosphere that we find in most Catholic churches? Could this be one of the reasons why many Catholics have joined other Christian denominations, because the spirit of joy is sorely lacking in our masses and worship assemblies?

There are three major reasons for this absence of joy in one’s spiritual life. The first is lack of gratitude for the many blessings in our life. In most cases, we only realize the value of something when we have already lost it. Take our health, for instance. Lack of gratitude for this precious gift makes a person take for granted the importance of regular exercise, balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle. Instead, he indulges in harmful substances like alcohol and cigarettes with no regard for their long-term harmful effects. When he is eventually paralyzed by stroke or stricken with emphysema, it is the only time he stops smoking and drinking, and regrets the loss of his good health. A healthy body belongs to a very happy and appreciative heart indeed.

The second reason why the gift of joy may not be present in one’s life is the absence of ministry in it. The pursuit of wealth, influence and prominence in society has never achieved true joy in living. In his life, St. Francis found that it is only in service to God and to others that one discovers peace of mind and gladness of heart. Joy is the fruit as well as the fuel of faithful service. The author, Joseph Campbell, said the path of bliss lies in looking for ways that we can be of more service to those around us, giving joy both to ourselves and to those we are serving. It is God we serve for all the blessings He has given us.

Finally, joy and gladness of heart will always be a part of our life because we have the gift of hope — for the salvation that awaits us at the end of our earthly journey. Every follower of Christ bears in his heart joy in the fact that his own name is already written in heaven. This is the reason why we cannot help but “overflow in praise of God” to men. If we talk about Him often, it is not so much because it is our duty as because God is our delight.

“I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoiced in great riches . . . I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word” (Psalm 119:14,16).

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