Lent With Saint Francis: Part III

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Saint Francis left behind him 28 admonitions for his brothers.  This Lent we will look at them.  Go here for part I, here for part II and here is part III:

 

 

XI. NO ONE SHOULD BE CORRUPTED BY THE EVIL OF ANOTHER

1. Nothing should upset the servant of God except sin. 2. And no matter how another person may sin, if the servant of God lets himself become angry and disturbed because of this, [and] not because of love, he stores up the guilt for himself (cf. Rom. 2:5). 3. The servant of God who does not become angry or upset at anything lives justly and without anything of his own. 4. And he is blessed who does not keep anything for himself, rendering to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s (Mt. 22:21).

Here Saint Francis recommends that we adopt a stoic attitude in this life, especially in the face of the sin of others.  This echoes this admonition of Christ:

[1] Judge not, that you may not be judged, [2] For with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged: and with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again. [3] And why seest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye; and seest not the beam that is in thy own eye? [4] Or how sayest thou to thy brother: Let me cast the mote out of thy eye; and behold a beam is in thy own eye? [5] Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam in thy own eye, and then shalt thou see to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

Matthew 7:  1-5

We are so often more concerned about revealing the sins of others instead of curing our own.

In his directive not to keep anything for ourselves, Saint Francis repeats Christ’s statement to the rich young man who inquired about the path of perfection, and who after he heard retreated from that path:

[21] Jesus saith to him: If thou wilt be perfect, go sell what thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come follow me. [22] And when the young man had heard this word, he went away sad: for he had great possessions.

Matthew 19:  21-22

XII. HOW TO DISCERN WHETHER ONE HAS THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD

1. A servant of God may be recognized as possessing the Spirit of the Lord in this way: 2. if the flesh does not pride itself when the Lord performs some good through him since the flesh is always opposed to every good; 3. rather he considers himself the more worthless in his own eyes and esteems himself less than all others.

The quest for true spiritual humility is at the core of the spirituality of Saint Francis.  In this, as in all things, he reflects his Master:

[20] Then came to him the mother of the sons of Zebedee with her sons, adoring and asking something of him.

[21] Who said to her: What wilt thou? She saith to him: Say that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left, in thy kingdom. [22] And Jesus answering, said: You know not what you ask. Can you drink the chalice that I shall drink? They say to him: We can. [23] He saith to them: My chalice indeed you shall drink; but to sit on my right or left hand, is not mine to give to you, but to them for whom it is prepared by my Father. [24] And the ten hearing it, were moved with indignation against the two brethren. [25] But Jesus called them to him, and said: You know that the princes of the Gentiles lord it over them; and they that are the greater, exercise power upon them.

[26] It shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be the greater among you, let him be your minister: [27] And he that will be first among you, shall be your servant. [28] Even as the Son of man is not come to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a redemption for many.

Mattthew 20: 20-28

XIII. PATIENCE

1. Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God (Mt. 5:9). The servant of God cannot know how much patience and humility he has within himself as long as everything goes well with him. 2. But when the time comes in which those who should do him justice do quite the opposite to him, he has only as much patience and humility as he has on that occasion and no more.

Patience and humility are easy in tranquil times, much harder when the inevitable storms of human existence arrive:

[9] Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall put you to death: and you shall be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. [10] And then shall many be scandalized: and shall betray one another: and shall hate one another.

[11] And many false prophets shall rise, and shall seduce many. [12] And because iniquity hath abounded, the charity of many shall grow cold. [13] But he that shall persevere to the end, he shall be saved. [14] And this gospel of the kingdom, shall be preached in the whole world, for a testimony to all nations, and then shall the consummation come.

Matthew 24:  9-14

XIV. POVERTY OF SPIRIT

1. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs (Mt. 5:3). 2. There are many who, applying themselves insistently to prayers and good deeds, engage in much abstinence and many mortifications of their bodies, 3. but they are scandalized and quickly roused to anger by a single word which seems injurious to their person, or by some other things which might be taken from them. 4. These [persons] are not poor in spirit because a person who is truly poor in spirit hates himself (cf. Lk. 14:26) and loves those who strike him on the cheek (cf. Mt. 5:39).

A hard saying of Saint Francis, repeating a hard saying of Christ.  Saint Francis, as the scion of a rich family who aspired to be a knight, would have found this perhaps the hardest of all the teachings of Christ:

[38] You have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. [39] But I say to you not to resist evil: but if one strike thee on thy right cheek, turn to him also the other: [40] And if a man will contend with thee in judgment, and take away thy coat, let go thy cloak also unto him.

Matthew 5:  38-40

XV. PEACE

1. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God (Mt. 5:9). 2. The true peacemakers are those who preserve peace of mind and body for love of our Lord Jesus Christ, despite what they suffer in this world.

In our time too often we think of being a peacemaker purely in an external sense.  Saint Francis reminds us that an internal peace, maintained in the face of adversity, is at the core of being a peacemaker:

[9] Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called children of God. [10] Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

[11] Blessed are ye when they shall revile you, and persecute you, and speak all that is evil against you, untruly, for my sake: [12] Be glad and rejoice, for your reward is very great in heaven. For so they persecuted the prophets that were before you.

Matthew 5:  9-12

 

 

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