Lent With Saint Francis: Part IV

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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, here for part III and here is part IV:

XVI. PURITY OF HEART

1. Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God (Mt. 5:8). 2. The truly pure of heart are those who despise the things of earth and seek the things of heaven, and who never cease to adore and behold the Lord God living and true with a pure heart and soul.

We leave in a time which despises purity and celebrates impurity, or outwardly seems to.  Privately I think many people are appalled at what a cesspool our culture has become.  It is precisely to give us pure hearts that Christ came.  He replaced the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament with His sacrifice and freed us from our sins.  Isaiah, seven centuries before Christ, Isaiah saw what was to come:

[11] To what purpose do you offer me the multitude of your victims, saith the Lord? I am full, I desire not holocausts of rams, and fat of fatlings, and blood of calves, and lambs, and buck goats. [12] When you came to appear before me, who required these things at your hands, that you should walk in my courts? [13] Offer sacrifice no more in vain: incense is an abomination to me. The new moons, and the sabbaths, and other festivals I will not abide, your assemblies are wicked. [14] My soul hateth your new moons, and your solemnities: they are become troublesome to me, I am weary of bearing them. [15] And when you stretch forth your hands, I will turn away my eyes from you: and when you multiply prayer, I will not hear: for your hands are full of blood.

[16] Wash yourselves, be clean, take away the evil of your devices from my eyes: cease to do perversely, [17] Learn to do well: seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge for the fatherless, defend the widow. [18] And then come, and accuse me, saith the Lord: if your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made as white as snow: and if they be red as crimson, they shall be white as wool.

Isaiah 1: 11-18

XVII. THE HUMBLE SERVANT OF GOD

1. Blessed is that servant (Mt. 24:46) who does not pride himself on the good that the Lord says or does through him any more than on what he says or does through another. 2. That person sins who wishes to receive more from his neighbor then what he is willing to give of himself to the Lord God.

Saint Francis was the true saint of humility, a hard virtue to master.  It is hard to master because when we are humble we tend to be proud of our humility, which defeats our humiliy.  Francis however, as ever emulating Christ, had all of his pride swallowed up in his love of God.  Perhaps this feat was why he was honored with the first recorded instance of the stigmata.  He, above all men, except for Mary, experienced this great lesson of Christ:

[28] Come to me, all you that labour, and are burdened, and I will refresh you. [29] Take up my yoke upon you, and learn of me, because I am meek, and humble of heart: and you shall find rest to your souls. [30] For my yoke is sweet and my burden light.

Matthew:  11: 28-30

XVIII. COMPASSION FOR ONE’S NEIGHBOR

1. Blessed is the person who bears with his neighbor in his weakness to the degree that he would wish to be sustained by him if he were in a similar situation (cf. Gal. 6:2; Mt. 7:12).

Most of us are willing to help a person in distress.  Much harder to be forbearing when dealing with a neighbor who is acting like an idiot.  Christ tells us why:

[21] Then came Peter unto him and said: Lord, how often shall my brother offend against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? [22] Jesus saith to him: I say not to thee, till seven times; but till seventy times seven times. [23] Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened to a king, who would take an account of his servants. [24] And when he had begun to take the account, one was brought to him, that owed him ten thousand talents. [25] And as he had not wherewith to pay it, his lord commanded that he should be sold, and his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made.

[26] But that servant falling down, besought him, saying: Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. [27] And the lord of that servant being moved with pity, let him go and forgave him the debt. [28] But when that servant was gone out, he found one of his fellow servants that owed him an hundred pence: and laying hold of him, throttled him, saying: Pay what thou owest. [29] And his fellow servant falling down, besought him, saying: Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. [30] And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he paid the debt.

[31] Now his fellow servants seeing what was done, were very much grieved, and they came and told their lord all that was done. [32] Then his lord called him; and said to him: Thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all the debt, because thou besoughtest me: [33] Shouldst not thou then have had compassion also on thy fellow servant, even as I had compassion on thee? [34] And his lord being angry, delivered him to the torturers until he paid all the debt. [35] So also shall my heavenly Father do to you, if you forgive not every one his brother from your hearts.

Matthew: 18: 21-35

XIX. THE HAPPY SERVANT OF GOD

1. Blessed is the servant who attributes every good to the Lord God, for he who holds back something for himself hides within himself the money of his Lord God (Mt. 25:18), and that which he thought he had shall be taken away from him (Lk. 8:18).

We can never praise God enough:

XX. THE VIRTUOUS SERVANT OF GOD

1. Blessed is the servant who esteems himself no better when he is praised and exalted by people than when he is considered worthless, simple, and despicable 2. for what a man is before God, that he is and nothing more. 3. Woe to that religious who has been placed in a high position by others and does not wish to come down of his own will. 4. And blessed is that servant (Mt. 24:46) who does not place himself in a high position of his own will and always desires to be under the feet of others.

The greatest title of any Pope is the slave of the slaves of Christ:

[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.

Matthew 20:  25-26

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