Saint Francis left behind him 28 admonitions for his brothers. This Lent we will look at them:
I. THE BODY OF CHRIST
1. The Lord Jesus says to his disciples: I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me. 2. If you had known me, you would also have known my Father and from now on you will know him and have seen him. 3. Philip says to him: Lord, show us the Father and it is enough for us. Jesus says to him: 4. Have I been with you for so long a time and you have not known me? Philip, whoever sees me, sees also my Father (Jn. 14:6-9). 5. Sacred Scripture says that the Father lives in inaccessible light (cf. 1 Tim. 6:16), and God is Spirit (Jn. 4:24) and, No one has ever seen God (Jn. 1:18). 6. Therefore he cannot be seen except in the Spirit since it is the Spirit that gives life; the flesh does not offer anything (Jn. 6:64). 7. But neither, inasmuch as he is equal to the Father, is the Son seen by anyone other than the Father [or] other than the Holy Spirit. 8. Therefore all those who saw the Lord Jesus according to [his] humanity and did not see and believe according to the Spirit and the Godhead that he is the true Son of God were condemned. 9. And now in the same way, all those who see the sacrament (of the body of Christ), which is sanctified by the words of the Lord upon the altar at the hands of the priest in the form of bread and wine, and who do not see and believe according to the Spirit and the Godhead that it is truly the most holy body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, are condemned. 10. [This] is attested by the Most High himself Who says: This is my body and the blood of my new testament [which will be poured out for many] (cf. Mk. 14:22, 24) 11. and he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life (cf. Jn. 6:55). 12. And so it is really the Spirit of the Lord, Who lives in his faithful, Who receives the most holy body and blood of the Lord. 13. All others who do not share in this same Spirit and who presume to receive him eat and drink judgment to themselves (cf. 1 Cor. 11:29). 14. Therefore, O sons of men, how long will you be hard of heart? (Ps. 4:3) 15. Why do you not recognize the truth and believe in the Son of God? (cf. Jn. 9:35) 16. See, daily he humbles himself (cf. Phil. 2:8) as when he came from the royal throne (Wis. 18:15) into the womb of the Virgin; 17. daily he comes to us in a humble form; 18. daily he comes down from the bosom of the Father (cf. Jn. 1:18) upon the altar in the hands of the priest. 19. And as he appeared to the holy apostles in true flesh, so now he reveals himself to us in the Sacred Bread. 20. And as they saw only his flesh by means of their bodily sight, yet believed him to be God as they contemplated him with the eyes of faith, 21. so, as we see bread and wine with [our] bodily eyes, we too are to see and firmly believe them to be his most holy body and blood living and true. 22. And in this way the Lord is always with his faithful, as he himself says: Behold I am with you even to the end of the world (cf. Mt. 28:20).
In the end, the big question of our lives is always who do we say that Christ is, and that is precisely the question that our time tries to elude, by ignoring it or passing Christ off as some sort of philosopher, or a figure out of dimly recorded history. CS Lewis reminds us that such options are not available for us in regard to Christ:
I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
II. THE EVIL OF SELF-WILL
1. The Lord said to Adam: Eat of every tree; do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (cf. Gn. 2:1617). 2. He was able to eat of every tree of paradise since he did not sin as long as he did not go against obedience. 3. For the person eats of the tree of the knowledge of good who appropriates to himself his own will and thus exalts himself over the good things which the Lord says and does in him; 4. and thus, through the suggestion of the devil and the transgression of the command, what he eats becomes for him the fruit of the knowledge of evil. 5. Therefore it is necessary that he bear the punishment.
We are made in the image of God in that we, like God, have free will. God could have made us always choose the good, but then we would not truly have free will. How this great gift has been abused, history amply records. However, without it we would not be human, and not a child of a loving God.
III. PERFECT OBEDIENCE
1. The Lord says in the Gospel: He who does not renounce everything he possesses cannot be my disciple (Lk. 14:33); 2. and: He who wishes to save his life must lose it (Lk. 9:24). 3. That person leaves everything he possesses and loses his body who surrenders his whole self to obedience at the hands of his prelate. 4. And whatever he does and says which he knows is not contrary to his [prelate’s] will, provided that what he does is good, is true obedience. 5. And should the subject sometimes see that some things might be better and more useful for his soul than what the prelate may command him, let him willingly offer such things to God as a sacrifice; and instead earnestly try to fulfill the wishes of the prelate. 6. For this is loving obedience because it pleases God and neighbor. 7. But if the prelate should command something contrary to his conscience, although [the subject] does not obey him, still he should not abandon him. 8. And if in consequence he suffers persecution from others, let him love them even more for [the love of] God. 9. For whoever chooses to endure persecution rather than be separated from his brothers truly remains in perfect obedience for he lays down his life (Jn. 15:13) for his brothers. 10. There are indeed many religious who, under the pretext of seeking something better than what the prelate commands, look back (cf. Lk. 9:62) and return to the vomit of their own will (cf. Prv. 26:11; 2 Pt. 2:22); 11. these are murderers who cause many souls to perish by reason of their bad example.
Obedience has never been easier, and in our day rebels are celebrated. Or are they? Today we play act rebellion, while those who celebrate rebellion the most seek to ensure ideological conformity, and many seem in a mad rush to have a government who will tell people what to do. It is bleakly humorous that so many of those who refuse to bend the knee to God, are extremely eager to bend the knee to Man.
IV. LET NO ONE APPROPRIATE TO HIMSELF THE ROLE OF BEING OVER OTHERS
1. I did not come to be served but to serve (cf. Mt. 10:28), says the Lord. 2. Those who are placed over others should glory in such an office only as much as they would were they assigned the task of washing the feet of the brothers. 3. And the more they are upset about their office being taken from them than they would be over the loss of the office of [washing] feet, so much the more do they store up treasures to the peril of their souls (cf. Jn. 12:6).
Christ was quite explicit on this point:
20Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.
21“What is it you want?” he asked. She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”
22“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” “We can,” they answered.
23Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.” 24When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. 25Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—
28just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Mathew 20: 20-28
V. NO ONE SHOULD BOAST IN HIMSELF BUT RATHER GLORY IN THE CROSS OF THE LORD
1. Be conscious, O man, of the wondrous state in which the Lord God has placed you, for he created you and formed you to the image of his beloved Son according to the body, and to his likeness according to the spirit (cf. Gn. 1:26). 2. And [yet] all the creatures under heaven, each according to its nature, serve, know, and obey their Creator better than you. 3. And even the demons did not crucify him, but you together with them have crucified him and crucify him even now by delighting in vices and sins. 4. In what then can you glory? 5. For if you were so subtle and wise that you had all knowledge (cf. 1 Cor. 13:2) and knew how to interpret all tongues (cf. 1 Cor. 12:28) and minutely investigate [the course of] the heavenly bodies, in all these things you could not glory, 6. for one demon knew more about the things of earth than all men together, even if there may have been someone who received from the Lord a special knowledge of the highest wisdom. 7. likewise, even if you were more handsome and richer than everyone else and even if you performed wonders such as driving out demons, all these things would be an obstacle to you and none of them would belong to you nor could you glory in any of these things. 8. But in this we can glory: in our infirmities (cf. 2 Cor. 12:5) and bearing daily the holy Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Lk. 14:27).
How the World, the Flesh and the Devil hate the Cross! One look at a Crucifix and it is easy to see that those things that most people cherish, possessions, power, success, are but dust and ashes in the divine scheme of things. As Saint Paul observed:
20Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21For seeing that in the wisdom of God the world, by wisdom, knew not God, it pleased God, by the foolishness of our preaching, to save them that believe. 22For both the Jews require signs, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: 23But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews indeed a stumblingblock, and unto the Gentiles foolishness: 24But unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
25For the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
1 Corinthians 1: 20-25