Thursday, January 20, 2011

Living a Sacrificial Life for Love of Him who loves us first - Jesus!

Sisters and brothers of Christ and friends of St. Francis, let us begin the New Year with our father, St. Francis of Assisi, on Mt. Alverno.  He is kneeling on this cold night with sister Moon shining down upon him, crying out to our loving Father.  We can hear his voice clearly as he prays:
                  Oh Lord Jesus Christ, I entreat You to give me two graces before I die: first, that in my lifetime I may feel in body and soul as far as possible the pain You endured dear Lord, in the hour of Your most bitter sufferings; and second, that I may feel in my heart as far as possible that excess of love by which You, O Son of God, were inflamed to undertake so cruel a suffering for us sinners.'

Francis was praying for something so amazing, so wonderful and so hard, that probably most of us have never considered praying something like this for ourselves.  Who are we to ask for something so holy and also, would we have the strength to bear up under Christ's cross?!  Well . . . we are the children of our father Francis and have stated our intention to 'follow in his footsteps' - live, think and feel like Francis.  This prayer and the response of God to it - the Stigmata - are our birthright as his children.  If anyone has the right to pray this . . . it is us!

The real question is . . . why would we want to pray this prayer, or at least part of it?!  Understanding God's love for us, that compelled Jesus with the greatest urgency to die for us, would be wonderful since His love is SO wonderful.  But to feel such horrific pain . . .?!  And yet, notice that this request is the first part of the prayer indicating how important Francis thought it was.

Francis truly followed in Jesus' footsteps and during the 2 remaining years of his life after receiving the stigmata, was selfless, loving and very concerned about EVERYONE else (forgetting himself) even as he suffered the daily agony of crucifixion through the Stigmata.  We all know talk is cheap and feelings/thoughts can be more like dreams, unconnected to reality.  However, nothing (in this world) is more real that what we feel and do with our bodies.  Francis followed Christ 100%, counting the cost, and was more than wiling to pay the price.

This prayer is our's by right . . . if we want it.  By resolving to follow Christ in the footsteps of St. Francis, we have chosen to make the prayer our own.  Trying to understand God's love only with words, thoughts and feelings CANNOT bring us to the truest understanding and realization of that Love.  THAT love is something we DO, not something we think or talk about.  Those who think they understand it through thinking are living in an illusion.  Feeling it in your flesh, understanding it thrupain and suffering, brings one into the very heart of God - where our father Francis is.

This year, 2011, let us take advantage of every opportunity God gives us to suffer in our body - through illness/disability or by abuse from others - to plunge into the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Francis saw all of these sufferings as a sign from God of His desire to give us great honor, for one is closest to Christ in His agony, when one shares his pain and sorrow.  Let us celebrate before God, with praise and thanksgivings, our trials and temptations and, like father Francis, let us know the Love of God.  There is nothing greater in the Universe.  After all, as St. Paul said, 'God IS Love'.  Let us go on from here to know God.