It is never good to be alone. This is a fact we sometimes forget.
In Genesis, where the good of Creation and humanity in particular, is defined, so too is our Franciscan identity moored. A Christian reflection on the Universe asks why. Why this planet or solar system as the birthplace of salvation? Why God did you choose humanity, the only beings made for faith or reason? Since nobody in the history of time has answered this question, it will be the first I ask the Maker when we meet.
God’s Word speaks of love between creatures, and the relational nature of human beings. And so, by the way does our particular tradition.
In his Feast Day Homily two years ago, Minister General Jose Carballo noted that St. Francis was “radically relational”. For Francis, the Word of God and he shared in “intimate relationship”. The two expressed themselves sine glossa, freely and without interference, to each other. To what the Lord said in the Word, was the heart of Francis totally open. Francis was very aware that the closer he got to God’s Word, the closer he got to God Himself.
But Francis was not only relational, he was communal. “He knew well,” Brother Jose insists, “that when the Lord spoke and he responded communion was established. Listening to the Word and devouring it, Francis not only edified himself, but conformed to the God speaking.” As the law of love states: a lover conforms to his beloved. Observe a married couple for a few years to see this occur. And dare I say that such is even seen in community.
When he wrote his testament, a look back on life lived, our Father Francis referred to the difference between the man he was without brothers and the man he became once no longer alone. In community Francis changed, the pious disciple adopted new priorities. When alone Francis enjoyed an exclusive relationship with God, and while never losing this completely, in community he became concerned about something known as “the common good”, and how others related to each other.
Brothers, I inserted in today’s liturgy a short reading from Celano as a reminder to us all about who we are, where we come from and where we, ideally, go.
In the gospel, Jesus invites us to be like children, which as Friar Charles Talley of the Santa Barbara Province tells us is to be “open, innocent, spontaneous and joyful”. To be childlike is not to be childish, which is perhaps dodgy, manipulative, fearful, to scratch the surface.
If childlike we are brothers, men who holistically depend on one another but do not own one another. If like children, we trust in one another. If truly brothers, we are men who celebrate the gift of one another as totally other than ourselves.
The gospel Jesus preached invites us to be brothers. In the same way friars were called 800 years ago, Jesus gathers us together in a spirit of holy simplicity, innocence of life, and a purity of intention stemming directly from the human heart. And even though such seems impossible (I do tend to doubt historicity of Celano’s romantic memory), even though the bar is high, we as men of common faith are directed to common ground. We are to be of a common spirit, a common will, a common mind, harmony and common virtues. God, for whatever reason, God for faith, chose us, as so we share a common call.
Now Jesus says, my yoke is easy, my burden is light, but brothers the aforesaid seems impossible. I doubt that all of us can agree on much. I fail to foresee multiple friars excited about many common causes. But brothers, the same gospel is ours to share.
And so, if we do nothing else, may we live it with passion! May each and every one of us love the Word of God and be drawn together. Like and as faithful children, may we be brothers to one another.