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Saint Francis Assisi – October 4th
Readings: Gal 6:14-18, Psa. 16; Mt 11:25-30
1/ Reading I: RSV Galatians 6:14 But far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. 16 Peace and mercy be upon all who walk by this rule, upon the Israel of God. 17 Henceforth let no man trouble me; for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus. 18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brethren. Amen.
2/ Gospel: RSV Matthew 11:25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; 26 yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will. 27 All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
I. THEME: Nothing can be compared with Christ’s cross.
St. Francis is the son of a very rich businessman at Assisi. His father is a merchant, specialized in expensive fabrics, and wanted him to continue his business; but Francis, enlightened by God, early recognized the vanity of richness and clearly understood the mystery of the Cross. Christ is God who has all things in heaven and on earth; but chose to empty himself to take all punishments of sins of humankind upon him. On the Cross, he was so poor that he had only a piece of cloth to cover his waist while endured all kinds of pain for people.
Once understood this love, Francis imitated Christ to return his immense love for him, by denying following his father’s business. When his father knew Francis wanted to dedicate his whole life for God, he expulsed him from his house; and every time Francis happened to beg for food across his house, he permitted his servants to rebuke and to beat up him with a hope that his son will change. One time, after being ridiculed and beaten up, Francis took off the clothes he was wearing and gave back to his father and said, “This is yours I return to you; but this body belongs to God, it shall be completely His from now on.” The Church, when canonized him, called him “the Queen of Poverty.”
Today two readings enlighten us to understand the rich and deep mystery of the Cross and the vanity of worldly richness. In the first reading, St. Paul certainly understood Christ’s love for him when he meditated about the mystery of the Cross. Once he understood it, he was at peace; because if God so loved the world that He gave His Only Son to die for them, what else he can give and not to give it for people? In the Gospel, Jesus thanked God because He revealed the mysteries of the heavenly kingdom for the babies, not for the wise and the understanding. Only those who are meek and humble, can open their mind and heart to welcome God’s deep mysteries, act according to Jesus’ teaching, and find the true peace for their soul.
1/ Reading I: St. Paul’s confirmation, “Far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ”
1.1/ How can one have true peace?
(1) Christ’s cross is the faithful’s pride: This is the last four verses of Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, and he wanted to summarize what he had said to the faithful in the whole Letter. The faithful should not find their pride in anything that the world offers, such as: power, fame, richness, enjoyment because these things don’t bring salvation for them; but their pride must be in Christ’s cross because through it, their sins are redeemed, and they are reconciled with God. St. Paul declared, “But far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”
(2) The rule to have true peace: For the faithful, what is matter for them isn’t about the circumcision nor the keeping of the Law, but about becoming a new creation—following the Holy Spirit’s guidance to completely live for Christ. St. Paul taught, “For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. Peace and mercy be upon all who walk by this rule, upon the Israel of God.”
The true peace has a close relation with the faithful’s faith in Christ: Once they know about God’s plan of salvation, the faithful are no longer worried about their sins and death. They know that if they believe and keep what Christ teaches, they shall live forever with God. It is due to this confirmation that they have the true peace in their mind.
1.2/ “I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.”
In their life, the faithful face many wrong teachings of the world and of many different religions. Once knew clearly God’s plan of salvation, the faithful shouldn’t let anyone shake his faith, nor let anything draw them out of Christ’s cross, nor let Christ’s marks on their body be blotted out. The marks which Paul mentioned here could be the five sacred wounds (stigmata) of Christ which many holy people, such as: St. Francis of Assisi, St. Gemma Galgiani and Padre Pio of our era were given; it could also be the marks left on the body after the faithful went through suffering to witness for Christ; or it can be spiritually understood as the indelible mark which the sacrament of Baptism left in the faithful’s soul.
2/ Gospel: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart.”
Jesus made a comparison between the wise and the understanding (sophos, sunetos) with the lowly (nêpios), to tell his audience that they need to have the child’s attitudes, such as: trust, humility and eager to learn, so that he could convey to them knowledge about God. A prideful and suspected attitude shall prevent them from recognizing what he would like to reveal for them.
2.1/ Knowledge about God: Jesus said to them, “All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
(1) Jesus knows His Father more than anyone else: The Greek verb which the author used here is “epiginôskô,” to know a person as he is or a thing as it is. People understand God with different levels; only Jesus understands God with the most perfect level. This isn’t a surprise because Christ is the Logos or God’s intellect. He and His Father are one (Jn 10:30).
(2) People know about God through Christ’s revelation: If God doesn’t reveal for people, they shall never be able to know Him. Christ is God’s revelation. He comes to reveal His Father for people as he announced to his disciples, “He who sees me sees him who sent me” (Jn 12:45). Moreover, in order for people to understand these revelations, they need the Holy Spirit, sent by the Father, to enlighten and to guide them from inside.
2.2/ Two lessons we need to learn from our master: Though Jesus’ disciples must still bear the heavy laden, they don’t bear it according to the worldly way; but Christ’s way. To do this, they need to learn from Christ. Two important virtues we need to learn from him are:
(1) Meekness: This is the second beatitude. We can learn this virtue from Jesus. He is God himself; he can destroy all those who reviled, scourged and killed him because he didn’t commit of any sin, but he didn’t do that. Instead, he chose the way of forgiveness. On the cross, he prayed to the God, “Father! forgive them because they know not what they do.” He reconciled people with God and others. He taught us to love, to forgive, to pray and to do good deeds to our enemies. Human beings also like those who are meek, gentle and easy to forgive. Wickedness and revenge make us hatred by all; we shall not find true peace by getting angry with people.
(2) Humility: is the virtue that opposes to the sin of pride. No one likes the pride and those who always show that they know everything. Humility is to know oneself in the relationship with God and others. The humble know that all they have are from God, so they shouldn’t boast with others, but use their given gifts to extend God’s kingdom and to serve others. The pride steals God’s grace and always feel unrest because they fear that others shall be better than them. They are discontent when they don’t get what they want, and angry with all people.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– Let come and learn with Christ from the Cross because he shall teach us all wisdom lessons which we can’t find from anyone of this world.
– No one in this world loves us like Christ. He showed the depth of his love for us through his painful death on the Cross to redeem all of our sins.
– If we change Christ’s love for the worldly richness, we fall into the devil’s trap and become the most miserable creature of this world.