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The Journey of Francis

On this feast of Saint Francis the Pope is in Assisi. Here is the beginning of the homily prepared for delivered at the Eucharist he is celebrating:

Where did Francis’s journey to Christ begin? It began with the gaze of the crucified Jesus. With letting Jesus look at us at the very moment that he gives his life for us and draws us to himself. Francis experienced this in a special way in the Church of San Damiano, as he prayed before the cross which I too will have an opportunity to venerate. On that cross, Jesus is depicted not as dead, but alive! Blood is flowing from his wounded hands, feet and side, but that blood speaks of life. Jesus’ eyes are not closed but open, wide open: he looks at us in a way that touches our hearts. The cross does not speak to us about defeat and failure; paradoxically, it speaks to us about a death which is life, a death which gives life, for it speaks to us of love, the love of God incarnate, a love which does not die, but triumphs over evil and death. When we let the crucified Jesus gaze upon us, we are re-created, we become “a new creation”. Everything else starts with this: the experience of transforming grace, the experience of being loved for no merits of our own, in spite of our being sinners. That is why Saint Francis could say with Saint Paul: “Far be it for me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal 6:14).

The Pope continues:

Franciscan peace is not something saccharine. Hardly! That is not the real Saint Francis! Nor is it a kind of pantheistic harmony with forces of the cosmos… That is not Franciscan either; it is a notion some people have invented! The peace of Saint Francis is the peace of Christ, and it is found by those who “take up” their “yoke”, namely, Christ’s commandment: Love one another as I have loved you (cf. Jn 13:34; 15:12). This yoke cannot be borne with arrogance, presumption or pride, but only with meekness and humbleness of heart.
We turn to you, Francis, and we ask you: Teach us to be “instruments of peace”, of that peace which has its source in God, the peace which Jesus has brought us.

About the Author

Rev. Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is Associate Professor of Theology Emeritus at Boston College.



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Beautiful how he weaved themes of life and resurrenction directly into the experience of suffering. That is so important in that it infused the inevitable suffering that we all experience in life with hope and life. 


Prior to celebrating Mass, Pope Francis visited Assisi's Seraphic Institute where handicapped young people are cared for. In his ex tempore remarks the Pope spoke of the two presences of Christ: in the Eucharist and among the most vulnerable. Here is the report on the Vatican news site (though it does not capture the depth of feeling in his words).

Thank you for this post and the one above re "pastry shop christians." I probably repeat myself, but I continue to appreciate Pope Francis's meditations on Christ crucified, something many of our medieval saints like Francis seemed to understand better than us now. The Pope seems desirous of returning to us the many layers of significance the cross and helps us face it with faith and compassion, and understand the honor it is to bear the cross. 

In the movie about Francis of Assisi, there's a scene I really like where at the very end Ftancis first sees the crucifix in the ruins of the San Damiano church - Jesus' eyes are startlingly open   ....

Thank you, Crystal. To paraphrase Newman's motto: "eyes speak to  eyes."

May I bring in a Dominican? Here's Timothy Radcliffe:
    "The journey to Jerusalem leads to the stripping and the nakedness of Jesus. We have see that joy begins in letting ourselves be looked at by Jesus. We must dare to be exposed to his view, confident that he will delight in us. 'Let your face shine on us, and we shall be saved.' But the culmination of this journey is that we gaze on Jesus, stripped for our view. That is the central image of our faith.
    "In 1999, a statue of 'Ecce Homo', the naked Christ, was placed on a plinth in Trafalgar Square. It was of a slim young man who looked incredibly vulnerable. . . A passer-by is reported to have said, 'If that's Jesus Christ, it's a bloody miracle. You couldn't put your faith in someone like that, he's as weak as a kitten.' The iconoclasts were right to be alarmed. It is scandalous to show God's naked face.
    "The climax in in the sight of Jesus's dead face. This is a face at which passers-by could look, but could return no gaze.This is a reversal of the previous relationsip to God, for God was the one who saw us but whom we could not bear to see. To see God was to die. Here in the cross, it is God whose face is seen and which does not look back, for God is dead. . .
    [The heart of the Trinity is a mutual pleasure, a delight between equals.] . . . There is no Christian love without euqality. The gospel leads us to the cross, where Jesus is stripped for our gaze as we are for his. Here we enter into a love that is mutual and reciprocal. Thisi opens the door to the scandal of equality with God i the Son. There is not love that does not stretch forward to equality.
    "This means that as Christians, we too must dare to be seen as we ar, trusting that people may learn to delight in us. . . " (What's the Point of Being a Christian?, p.66).

 In his ex tempore remarks the Pope spoke of the two presences of Christ,That is so important in that it infused the inevitable suffering that we all experience in life with the new way..


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