Francis was a man from a well-off family; life was easy and filled with privilege. Apparently a likeable bloke, he was the one who led those who lived lived in the fast lane; those who partied hard and lived life to the full (wink, wink). But he decided that he was going to be a knight and so when a local war came about, off he went to earn his spurs ... only to end up held as a prisoner by the victorious opposition for about a year before his release was paid for by his family.
Back home he partied even more and then there was a call for knights to get involved with the fourth crusade - so armour on and horse mounted, off Francis goes to war with the hope of ennoblement aforethought. But he didn't make more than a day's journey away from home before he felt God call him to stop the foolishness and return home! Not something easily done after the money and the send-off he'd had.
Can you imagine it: 'Hi guys, was going to war but felt God didn't want me to go and get stuck in there so I've come home. What's for dinner then?' But he did what he felt was right and life continued. And continued. And kept on continuing ...for about twenty-five years!
During this time he calmed down; not hard when people think you're a bit of a wally who left for war with cheers and crept back home to jeers perhaps? He spent more time in prayer - retreating to his cave and weeping over his past, and perhaps present, sins - and working in the family business (dad was a merchant who sold expensive cloth).
The one day, out riding, have came across a member of the most despised breed of outcast that there was in his society:A leper! Jumping from his horse he gave the leper a kiss of peace, and having the leper terrain that act, he jumped on his horse and went off rejoicing (he told people that when he looked back the leper had gone: Perhaps this was a test to have been passed. And pass it he had and this started the ball rolling big style and soon San Damiano, a derelict and abandoned church building became a place for him as, not quite understanding the 'building God's Church was something to do with a spiritual body, not a pile of bricks he attempted to rebuild it. He used money and sold stuff on the side to fund this and soon his Father had him before the authorities for theft!
Bottom line: he paid back the money and renouncing his family, gave back everything he had ever gained from being his Father's son - including his fine clothes - and left to pursue his life of faith wearing but a hair shirt (but naked makes for a better recounting doesn't it?).
The rest, as they say, is history: He did rebuild San Damiano and served the weak, marginalised and oppressed. He gathered together a rag bag collection of followers and called others to sell what they had and live for God. They went out in two and preached the Gospel, favouring no one and embracing all.
he, and his followers always seemed to be joyful: The loved life and people and preached Jesus, the Christ, where would the Church be today if we all acted like that? One of the things that spurs me on is Francis' thought that:
'You can't starve a fasting man - steal from one who has nothing - or ruin someone with no name to begin with!'
he understood the passage from Luke that we have before us today - he lived the commandment that we find in Micah regarding humility, justice and mercy.
O God, you ever delight to reveal yourself to the childlike and lowly of heart:
Grant that, following the example of the blessed Francis,
We may count the wisdom of this world as foolishness
And know only Jesus Christ and him crucified,
who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
The people of Israel say,“What should we bring with us when we go to worship the Lord?
What should we offer the God of heaven when we bow down to him?
Should we take burnt offerings to him?
Should we sacrifice calves that are a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams?
Will he take delight in 10,000 rivers of olive oil?
Should we offer our oldest sons for the wrong things we’ve done?
Should we sacrifice our own children to pay for our sins?”
The Lord has shown you what is good.
He has told you what he requires of you.
You must act with justice.
You must love to show mercy.
And you must be humble as you live in the sight of your God
Then Jesus spoke to his disciples. He said, “I tell you, do not worry.
Don’t worry about your life and what you will eat.
And don’t worry about your body and what you will wear.
There is more to life than eating.
There are more important things for the body than clothes.
Think about the ravens. They don’t plant or gather crops. They don’t have any barns at all.
But God feeds them. You are worth much more than birds!
Can you add even one hour to your life by worrying?
You can’t do that very little thing. So why worry about the rest?
Think about how the wild flowers grow. They don’t work or make clothing.
But here is what I tell you.
Not even Solomon in his royal robes was dressed like one of those flowers.
If that is how God dresses the wild grass, how much better will he dress you!
After all, the grass is here only today. Tomorrow it is thrown into the fire.
Your faith is so small!
Don’t spend time thinking about what you will eat or drink.
Don’t worry about it.
People who are ungodly run after all those things.
Your Father knows that you need them.
But put God’s kingdom first.
Then those other things will also be given to you.
Little flock, do not be afraid. Your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.
Sell what you own.
Give to those who are poor.
Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out.
Store up riches in heaven that will never be used up. There, no thief can come near it. There, no moth can destroy it. Your heart will be where your riches are.