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ST. FRANCIS AND EVANGELICAL POVERTY
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Thursday, Memorial of St. Francis of Assisi, October 04, 2012
Gal. 6:14-18, Ps. 15, Matt. 11:25-30


"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" (Gal. 6:18).


Today we honor St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226), who left the world and his comfortable, carefree life to live henceforth in evangelical poverty. He gloried only in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, not in this world and its pleasures, ambitions, riches, and entertainments. He was crucified to the world, and the world to him. He was dead to the world and its pleasures. He crucified his flesh with its passions and desires for pleasure (Gal. 5:24), and lived for God alone. He lived with his followers in great simplicity, renouncing secular dress, and clothing himself in a poor and simple habit, living in a humble abode with simple food, and going about preaching evangelical poverty and the love of God.


St. Francis is a concrete model for all of us in the radicalism of his life. Crucified to the world, and the world to him, he did not take part in its pleasures. He was no more of the world than was Jesus Christ. "I have given them thy word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world" (John 17:14; see John 15:18-19; 1 John 2:15; James 4:4). By "world" in St. Francis' case should be understood the carefree life of pleasure and entertainment that he lived before his conversion. At his conversion he renounced all that, his former worldly life, and henceforth found all his joy in the Lord.


St. Francis realized that to attain the kingdom of God and its joy it is necessary to renounce everything else, as did the merchant in search of fine pearls, "who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it" (Matt. 13:46). The man who found a treasure hidden in a field did the same. "In his joy he goes off and sells all that he has and buys that field" (Matt. 13:44), and so he obtains the treasure, which is the kingdom of God. This is what St. Francis did. To attain the kingdom he renounced everything else.


If we want to attain the kingdom of God, this is the way. Even though few follow this way, Jesus clearly teaches us that this is the way. Certainly if we want to attain perfection, we must renounce everything else. We must renounce the lifestyle of the world around us, and not follow it or imitate it, for it is based on another philosophy, the philosophy and wisdom of the world, which God has made foolish. "Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?" (1 Cor. 1:20). The cross, for the world, is foolishness; but this foolishness is wiser than the world (1 Cor. 1:25). It is our wisdom. Therefore St. Francis left the wisdom of the world and chose the foolishness of God, the foolishness of the cross, the foolishness of evangelical poverty.


Henceforth St. Francis lived with his whole heart focused only on God (Matt. 6:24), not on the pleasures and entertainments of the world. Although few follow St. Francis' example, this nonetheless is the way, the way of perfection. "If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me" (Matt. 19:21). This is what St. Francis did, and this is what we must do if we want to be perfect and have an undivided heart in our love for God. This is the strait and narrow way of life, which requires that we leave the comfortable, spacious, and pleasurable way of the world (Matt. 7:13-14). This is the way: living in simplicity, evangelical poverty, and the love of God, leaving the worldliness of the world.

 

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