St. Francis of Assisi

Luke 9: 57-62
Neh 2:1-8 / Psa 137: 1-6

No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.
(Luke 9:62)

What matters now is what we sow,
Not what we lost or left behind. . .
He who “sets a hand to the plow”
Has set God’s kingdom on his mind.

As they went on their way, a man said to Him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” He said to another man, “Follow me.” But the man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-bye to my family.” Jesus replied, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:57-62)

Reflection

The Church commemorates this day in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, founder of the Franciscan Order, and patron saint of animals and the environment. Coming from a wealthy and noble family, Francis lived a life of debauchery as a young man, and aspired for greatness through a military career. His dream for glory however was cut short when he heard the call of Jesus to abandon everything he owned, including the inheritance of his father’s wealth, and embrace (even love) poverty and the contemplative life. His example and influence were so powerful that in just a period of ten years, the membership of his contemplative order had reached five thousand. He was also responsible for founding the Franciscan Order of St. Claire, otherwise known as the Poor Sisters of St. Claire.

Like the parable of Jesus in today’s Gospel, the conversion of St. Francis gives us a clear idea of what it means when God calls us to mission, or to witness for His kingdom. Jesus must have been referring to the prophet Elijah (1 Kings 19:19-21) who called Elisha to service, as the latter was plowing his field. But in the case of Elijah, he allowed his protégé Elisha to delay his call by slaughtering his oxen and giving a feast to his kinsmen before he followed Elijah. This was hardly the case with St. Francis. His compliance to obey the words of Jesus in the Gospel was absolute, leaving no room for concessions. Nothing in this world is more important than God’s call to mission. Neither a burial nor a celebration or even wealth takes precedence. No ifs or buts, no fear or doubt – that’s what true mission in life is all about.

As the message in today’s Gospel tells us, God is not interested in our past, but what we are doing now to prepare ourselves for His kingdom. He had given us His Best – His Only Son – for our salvation. It’s only right that we give back our all, which, when we consider the eternal compensation, is not really worth much in the bargain. So how can wealth, position, or even family be more important? If we put God first above everything, He will reward all our efforts and sacrifices beyond our loftiest dreams.

Keep always before me, Lord, so that I may never be shaken, for in You my heart is glad, my soul rejoices, my body dwells secure. Show me the right path (Psalm 16:9-11) that I may persevere in serving You until the end of my earthly life. Amen.

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