Chuck Finan reflects on Genesis 1:20-25; Psalm 121; Matthew 11:25-30 on the Feast of St Francis.
Last month I had the opportunity to preach on Creation. As I prepared the homily, I remembered those final words God said after the garden was completed, “It is Good.” We hear them proclaimed again in the first reading when, after all, He had done, God took a long look and proclaimed his pleasure and satisfaction with His creative hand in bringing life to this place we call home. “It is Good,” says it all, doesn’t it?
Today, we celebrate the presence of St. Frances of Assisi in the development of the sacredness of God’s hand in our lives as people of Christ. While St. Frances was just like you and me in many ways, he did come from a place of luxury as his father was wealthy and a powerful person in his community.
I imagine that Frances was not in want for much. Everything was always present for him to have. He had little in common with the poor of his community, and he did not have a day without a meal. The descriptions of his life as a youth do not reveal a person who kept the Lord’s way. Rather it was showing a life that was very indulgent to Francis’s own desires.
Then in 1202, his whole life changed. He went to war and was captured. He was imprisoned for a year before he was ransomed by his father. It was during this time Francis says that he began to receive visions from God.
St. Francis describes how, after his release from prison, he saw a leper who he felt he needed to meet. After an intense experience with the leper, Francis said he felt an indescribable freedom that led him to focus on God and His calling. He describes how he was told in his vision of Jesus to rebuild the Christian Church and live a life of extreme poverty.
And in the end, God saw that “It was Good!”
Two weeks ago Skip told us his story of the mother skunk charging him to protect her young. Skip described his escape as he jumped over a fence while his friends were laughing. I wonder, what influenced Skip to decide to turn left or right as he ran, which guided the skunk from his friends so they would not be sprayed. I can imagine God laughing and then saying, “It is Good!”
In Luke 17 we read the story of Jesus healing the 10 lepers. They are standing a distance from him calling for Jesus to have pity on them. Instead of directly healing them, Jesus tells them, “Go show yourselves to the priests”. Later, only one of the lepers returned to fall at the feet of Jesus, glorifying God and thanking Jesus.
Jesus used the unclean men to reveal their faith as they went to see the priests without questioning Jesus as to why they should do so. But even more to the point was the return of the one healed man who praised God and thanked Jesus. Jesus provides two lessons:
We should have faith in what God can accomplish,
We should also be free with our thanks for His movement in our lives.
Again, I hear God saying, “It is Good!”
We have read of the disciples who were discussing the death of Jesus and wondering why it happened. As they walked along they are joined by a stranger who goes into the reasons for the killing of Christ. Their discussion continues until they stop for lunch. It is then they recognize Jesus as he displays his wounds and then disappears. The disciples quickly leave and hurry back to Peter and the rest of the disciples, telling they had seen Jesus alive.
Again, we are to realize, “It is Good!”
Almost 30 years ago Monica and I were attending a Friday night church service when one of the families asked for prayers for their 18 month boy, Seth. He was suffering from brain cancer and was going the Seattle hospital on Monday for more treatments.
We all gathered around the family, while Seth was being held by one of the women, and the prayers started. Seth was restless and upset, but as time passed he quieted and went to sleep. The group broke up and the family went to the doctors on Monday. They returned on Thursday with great joy, Seth was fully healed of the cancer!
I remember seeing him and his brothers at St. Pius 16 years later as he was leading the procession carrying the Cross at the start of Mass. Again, God says “It is Good”!.
I experienced the same action by God when I applied for the Deacon training in 2000. Through the movement of the Holy Spirit I had experienced a desire to ask to become a Deacon, and I was accepted. One class assignment required that I describe an activity that I could do as Deacon. It was then in 2004 when I developed the No One Shall Die Alone ministry, resulting in more than 500 people being trained to serve the dying in our communities. Remember the old Gong television show when you heard the “Bong” for any correct answer? Well that was what I felt, there was no question what I needed to do.
I know it was not Chuck who did all this, it was the Holy Spirit and the hand of God who brought peace and love to the many people we met. Through them we heard many stories of God’s presence in the dying person’s life, and we were able to bring about a time of closure and peace in their final hours of life. We also were able to see the Hand of God as those people took their last breath and passed on to be with God.
The stories I describe are the result of folks just like you and me being available for God to use as He sees fit. We were not the power within these stories, God and Jesus are.
We were only the channels for Their Hands to move through us to help others.
We see the same happening when St. Francis decreases in importance as he allows God and Jesus to work through him. It is our being open enough to allow our Lord to be present to those around us. Like St. Francis, you and I are not the reason for the event, we are only the avenue that our Lord uses to touch others.
How many times have you sensed that quiet movement in your body as you are led to do something for another person? It is then we must accept that it is not for us to make a judgment as to the validity of their request for help. Maybe it was only in the act of giving a dollar or two to a person who needed help. Other times it may be when you paid for a meal as they sat wet and cold in McDonalds. Remember, we are only a tool for God to use, we do not live their lives.
That is the way St. Francis lived as a poor man of God. He was a tool, not the hammer and anvil. Thus we can feel God’s response, “It is Good”!
The Gospel reading today assures us that as we take the Lord’s yoke we will find the burden is light. It is then we stand beside St. Francis as God leads us to another time to serve.
It is then we know God has moved within us and asked us to help Him to assist others. It is then we are able to experience the knowledge that “It is Good”, Then we know – Our Yes is God’s Yes!..