Today we celebrate the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi and there are special readings for today’s feast: Sirach 50:1,3-4, 6-7; Galatians 6:14-18 and Matthew 11:25-30. St. Francis is of course the founder of the Franciscan Order and the patron of our parish. Francis responded to Jesus’ call to rebuild his church. At first, he took this call in a literal sense and began to repair a small church that had fallen into disrepair. Francis finally came to realize that Jesus was not calling him to repair a material building but the church, the Body of Christ, by preaching repentance and a call to renewal.
In today’s second reading St. Paul declares: “But may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14). Paul seeks not his own way or the ways of the world, rather he seeks to follow the way of Jesus Christ. Paul then concludes this letter with these words: “From now on, let no one make troubles for me; for I bear the marks of Jesus on my body.” The Greek word for “marks” is stigmata. Paul is probably referring to the welts on his body that remained from the flogging he received in the synagogue for preaching a crucified Messiah. Paul mentions receiving this punishment in his letter to the Corinthians: “Five times at the hands of the Jews I received forty lashes minus one” (2 Corinthians 11:24). The early Franciscan biographers tell us that St. Francis received the Stigmata, the wounds of Christ, in his hands and feet. St. Francis devoted his life to following the way of Christ, including the way of the Cross.
The Gospel today is a call to rebirth and renewal, a call to come to Jesus: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” (Matthew 11:28-30). As we celebrate the feast of St. Francis let us respond to Jesus’ invitation to come to him as he waits for us with open arms. Happy Feast Day!
Image: “Giotto, St. Francis of Assisi Receiving the Stigmata, c. 1295-1300 with detail of Francis and the birds” by profzucker is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.