Monday, October 27, 2008

Back to the Cross…

When you see a poor man, you must consider the one in whose name he comes, namely, Christ, who took upon himself our poverty and weakness. The poverty and sickness of this man are, therefore, a mirror in which we ought to contemplate lovingly the poverty and weakness which our Lord Jesus Christ suffered in his body to save the human race.

Saint Francis of Assisi, from the Legend of Perugia - 89

Thinking about my last post here, it occurs to me that there is slightly more to this statement of St. Francis' than meets the eye. In our love for the poor, and in all we do to find them justice, we must not neglect the demands that justice itself makes on us, that we treat all human beings as equal in the eyes of God, and so equal in our eyes too.

Francis' love for the poor did not mean that he despised the rich. Indeed, Francis cautioned his friars not to look down on those "wearing soft or gaudy clothes and enjoying luxuries in food or drink" (RegB c.2). All the members of the brotherhood were equal, no matter what their social or economic background; no one was to cling to office within the brotherhood (LP 83).

The OFM JPIC Resource Book Part 2, 1: Option for the Poor, p. 4

Our hands must never be too full to reach out to whoever needs us, female or male, human or animal. We must open wide our arms to them all. There must be nothing to separate us: not education or possessions, nor detachment from them. In a comment on my last post, Barbara said, tellingly, "Voluntary poverty, I guess, can become something one clings to instead of God. Simplicity, on the other hand, leaves room for God. Without justice, it is hollow."

We must "Let the same mind be in [us] that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death - even death on a cross." (Philippians 2.5-8)

Somehow it seems to me that all this talk of poverty comes back to the Cross.


Tausign said...

We might ask 'What is the source of justice and how do we bring it about?' I would say briefly that it involves creating conditions that allow us to walk freely and upright towards God.

There is a danger in fighting falsely for justice (perhaps Barrabus fits the bill) in which we zone in on political and legal solutions above true conversion. It's a tricky matter for sure, as we are first of all charged with our own never ending conversion through repentance and growth in God's ways.

Hopefully, our own transformation extends into society as a whole. The SFO Rule speaks of 'the transforming power of love and pardon'; which as each year passes, I find is the only rightly grounded source of power. Reflecting upon Christ, Mary, Francis and all the Saints, we should never forget that the ultimate power is mysteriously hidden in poverty exactly where you suggest..."Back to the Cross".

Anonymous said...

Francis' love for the poor did not mean that he despised the rich.

A good thought for me.

Sometimes I feel an indignant rage towards those who live a life of excess.

But I think it is essentially a rage towards myself--toward my own worst instincts--toward my own inner wanting child.