Having just celebrated the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, it seemed fitting to consider his reflections on the desire of God as we prepare for tomorrow's meeting of the Schola Christi. As one so closely configured to Christ in his sufferings, bearing on his body the marks of the cross, Francis provides us, not only in word but in his very being, an insight into the depth of God's love for us. His poverty and suffering gives rise to the same question that should come forth from our depths as we gaze upon the cross: "What wondrous love is this, O my soul?" As one might expect, in his own words, St. Francis answers with all simplicity: This is a Love that "desires all of us to be saved through him," and to this purpose Jesus makes himself a willing sacrifice on our behalf and for our sins. This passionate and sacrificial love must become the focus of our actions - for it was intended to be an example for us to follow. Our first response to this desire must be to receive it with a pure heart and chaste body; to give God our whole self, heart and soul, and to love our neighbor as He has loved us.
This, of course, is done in the shadow of the cross. Our love must, St. Francis tells us, be formed by penance; we must die to self as well as to sin in order to truly live for God and others. The Desire that saves must mark our actions and shape our life, making them pure, simple and humble. We are to become, like Christ, the servants of all.
Thus, in a letter to his brothers, Francis writes:
"It was through his archangel, Saint Gabriel, that the Father above made known to the holy and glorious Virgin Mary that the worthy, holy and glorious Word of the Father would come from heaven and take from her womb the real flesh of our human frailty. Though he was wealthy beyond reckoning, he still willingly chose to be poor with his blessed mother. And shortly before his passion he celebrated the Passover with his disciples. Then he prayed to his Father saying: Father, if it be possible, let this cup be taken from me.
Nevertheless, he reposed his will in the will of his Father. The Father willed that his blessed and glorious Son, whom he gave to us and who was born for us, should through his own blood offer himself as a sacrificial victim on the altar of the cross. This was to be done not for himself through whom all things were made, but for our sins. It was intended to leave us an example of how to follow in his footsteps.
And he desires all of us to be saved through him, and to receive him with pure heart and chaste body.
O how happy and blessed are those who love the Lord and do as the Lord himself said in the gospel: You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart and your whole soul; and your neighbor as yourself. Therefore, let us love God and adore him with pure heart and mind. This is his particular desire when he says: True worshipers adore the Father in spirit and truth. For all who adore him must do so in the spirit of truth. Let us also direct to him our praises and prayers saying: Our Father, who art in heaven, since we must always pray and never grow slack.
Furthermore, let us produce worthy fruits of penance. Let us also love our neighbors as ourselves. Let us have charity and humility. Let us give alms because these cleanse our souls from the stains of sin. Men lose all the material things they leave behind them in this world, but they carry with them the reward of their charity and the alms they give. For these they will receive from the Lord the reward and recompense they deserve. We must not be wise and prudent according to the flesh. Rather we must be simple, humble and pure. We should never desire to be over others. Instead, we ought to be servants who are submissive to every human being for God’s sake. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on all who live in this way and persevere in it to the end. He will permanently dwell in them. They will be the Father’s children who do his work. They are the spouses, brothers and mothers of our Lord Jesus Christ."