In the Franciscan Third Order we are called to a life of simplicity (see The Principles, Days 10-12), even poverty. In our Western, 21st century life this is an odd thing to understand. I am only just beginning to get a handle on what it might mean, and this only by means of God's showing me its implications in ways that don't allow me to take credit for anything, still less act the hero as I might otherwise be inclined to do.
I am coming to believe that my 20-odd year obsession with Romans 8:28 is actually central to our understanding of the Franciscan way in these odd and troubled times. God does truly work in all things for the good of those who love him, and who are called according to his purpose. In many ways our poverty lies in this, our giving up of our own ambitions to self-determination, self-actualisation, and our abandoning of ourselves to God's grace, his sheer unconditioned gift. Our hopes and dreams are not ours really, not our own to bargain with, to lay plans for, as though we had our future at our own disposal.
I watched an extraordinarily moving film clip today (thanks Dria) of Market Street in San Francisco just days before the earthquake of 1906. The street was full of people, horses, traffic going about their own lives, following their own plans - so full of life and hope. I dare say Port-au-Prince looked much that way on the morning of January 12th.
We cannot know our lifetime. Our next breath is a gift we cannot deserve, and the one after that. We have this moment in which to love God, to love our sister, our brother, the cat who lies against the keyboard, the birds we feed in the garden. In all these things God works for good beyond our imagining, even when they seem so frail, so tragically able to be hurt. Like Jesus in the garden, we are called to an unthinkable trust. That is our poverty, all our riches, nothing we could ever hope to own.