Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Spoiled rich kid who gave it all away

This is the day, February 24, when in 1209 Francis of Assisi believed that God called him to a life of poverty and preaching the Gospel.

Born in Assisi, Italy in 1182, Saint Francis probably didn’t ever go to school, but his dad was a rich merchant. That meant that he could live the life of a playboy when he was young. Then he was held captive for more than a year by another city-state at war with Assisi.

As a prisoner of war, he suffered from a terrible illness. He decided to change his ways. When he got home he helped lepers and helped rebuild churches. His father thought that he was wasting his money. He was so angry with Francis that he disinherited him. Francis became a priest. He continued to serve a leper colony and to restore old churches.

On this day, during Mass, he believed that he heard God tell him to go into the world, owning nothing, but doing good everywhere, just like Jesus told His original 12 Apostles in Matthew 10:5-14.

That same year he began a preaching ministry. 12 men became sort of disciples to him. They became the original monks in the Franciscan order.

He tried to do missionary work in Spain to preach to the Moors (Muslims). In 1219 he went to Egypt, where he preached to the sultan. From there he journeyed to “the Holy Land,” what is Israel today.

Now, as a Lutheran, I believe that the only mediator Christians need between ourselves and God the Father, is God the Son, Jesus Christ- be that as it may, we non-Catholic Christians can certainly learn a lot from early Church leaders and saints like Francis. For one thing, he set a tremendous example. Why does Matthew 10:5-14 or the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20 have to only apply to Jesus’ original 12 disciples. Shouldn’t everyone who claims to believe in Jesus want to go out and continue His ministry?

Francis also left us a tremendous gift in a famous prayer that he wrote. I had a colleague who taught with me at a Lutheran school, who grew up in a community of staunch Irish Catholics. He always amazed me not just by the fact that he had this pray memorized, but in spite of knowing it so well, he always recited it with such genuine passion and commitment. It was never stale or rote. Too often too many of us mumble through the words of prayers as if we’re only going through the motions.

It’s a beautiful prayer and if you’re one for learning prayers by heart and you’ve already got the Lord’s prayer, the serenity prayer, or the Jabez prayer down pat, this is one which will no doubt bring you great comfort and I hope you’ll treasure:

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred . . . let me sow love
Where there is injury . . . pardon
Where there is doubt . . . faith
Where there is despair . . .hope
Where there is darkness . . . light
Where there is sadness . . .joy
Divine Master,
grant that i may not so much seek
To be consoled . . .as to console
To be understood . . .as to understand,
To be loved . . . as to love
For it is in giving . . .that we receive,
It is in pardoning, that we are pardoned,
It is in dying . . .that we are born to eternal life”
In Jesus’ name,

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