Walking in the Footsteps of Christ – Day 37
Wednesday in Holy Week
A Lenten Journey with the Rule of the Third Order of the Society of St Francis
These Reflections which take the Rule of the Third Order as their springboard, were originally published in Lent 2012 are being republished during Easter 2020 as a way of deepening our faith during the Covid19 pandemic which is affecting the whole world
From the Principles:
The Third Note – Joy (continued)
We delight in fun and laughter, rejoicing in God’s world, its beauty and its living creatures, calling nothing common or unclean. Mixing freely with all people, ready to bind up the broken-hearted, and bring joy into the lives of others we carry within us an inner peace and happiness which others may perceive, even if they do not know its source.
From St Francis:
Joy is Contagious
If at times temptation or despondency comes along to try me, and I see joy in my companions, then I immediately recover and let go of the temptation or depression. The joy I admire in others restores my own inward and outward joy. (Mirror of Perfection, 96)
I freely admit to being an unnatural Franciscan. I am not enamoured of bird baths; I have a daily struggle to cope with our dog’s intense devotion to me and our cat’s indifference to everyone. On occasion a truce is called and the dog and I go for long walks to church for the Morning Office and she lies quietly at my feet while I say my prayers. The cat and I have been known to have some serious cuddling time too – especially when his first love, my beloved wife, is away from home. But in general they get on with their world and I get on with mine.
And then the world breaks in on my moroseness. I find my heart lifted when a robin perches on a headstone in the churchyard, I catch myself chatting away the story of my day to squirrels scurrying along branches and, but please do not tell my bishop, I have even stretched my arms out to hug a tree and say ‘thank you’ to it. A long story best kept for another day…
The joy which we seek has its root in knowing that everything, cat dog squirrel robin and tree, is the free gift of God and who cannot be joyful when they receive a present?
When Francis made Lady Poverty his bride he learnt that, owning nothing, he could no longer bend anything to his own will or desire. He learnt that all things were a gift from the hands of the same generous God. If we have his insight into the world as ‘gift’ then we can begin to see the truth of the scripture passage
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; 20for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. (Romans 8.19-21)
The world is waiting with eager longing for us to become part of its family. Francis learnt to let go of the created order, the expectations of his family and his wealth, and was set free to perceive that all of creation was the gift of a generous God. Where there is no owner there is no Master or slave, no Mistress or maidservant, we are only sisters and brothers in the one family of the One Who Loves us Best.
So it is not surprising that Francis learnt to name the gifts around him as members of his family. The sun fierce and bright is our brother, earth our mother, and even death becomes our friend and sister. It is but a simple step from there to meet sister squirrel and brother robin or even embrace those who are not cute and cuddly; the leper, the arguing townspeople of Assisi, the angry farmers of Gubbio. Today he would embrace the parking meter attendant, the refuse collector and, dare I say in the midst of a financial crisis, even the banker.
If we are not careful, if we do not put a limit to God’s love, who knows where we might end up? It is too easy to limit our love and to choose to own creation rather than see the world and everything in it as a gift to cherish and preserve for others.
If we can meet the challenge to call ‘nothing common or unclean’. If we, driven by a love for all members of the family of God, can run to bind up the broken hearted, we will not only bring joy into the lives of others but find our own lives transformed by a joy which shines through us and find ourselves overflowing with inner peace and happiness.
And all this happens when we learn to value everything around us as gift. Looks as if Pippa the dog is headed for a lot of long walks and Thembinkosi the cat has more than a few cuddle sessions to come!
I weave a silence on to my lips
I weave a silence into my mind
I weave a silence within my heart
I close my ears to distractions
I close my eyes to attractions
I close my heart to temptations
Calm me, O Lord, as you stilled the storm
Still me, O Lord, keep me from harm
Let all the tumult within me cease
Enfold me Lord in your peace.
Find someone to give joy to today.
Be Dr Doolittle for a day and talk to an animal to whom you do not normally speak.
Be St Francis for a day and embrace whoever you see as the ‘leper’ in your community or family.
99 Words to Breathe:
Happiness isn’t for tomorrow,
It’s not hypothetical,
it starts here and now.
Down with violence,
egoism and despair,
Let’s pick ourselves up.
Nature has given us
It’s not over yet,
nothing is decided.
Intelligently, in our own way, at our own rhythm,
like responsible men proud of their inheritance,
let’s build the country of our children
and stop taking pity on ourselves.
Africa is also the joy of living,
optimism, beauty, elegance,
grace, poetry, softness, the sun, and nature.
Let’s be happy to be its sons
and fight to build our happiness.
Salif Keita – singer and songwriter
‘The Principles’ are from the Rule of the Third Order of the Society of St Francis – this version amended for corporate reading by Andrew Dotchin
‘The Words of Francis’ are from ‘Through the Year with Francis of Assisi’ selected and translated by Murray Bodo – copyright © Collins Fount 1988
Prayers are from ‘The Book of a Thousand Prayers’ compiled by Angela Ashwin – copyright © Zondervan 1996
‘You have breath for no more than 99 Words. What would they be?’ were collected by Liz Gray – copyright © DLT 2011
These Reflections, ‘Walking in the Footsteps of Christ’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2020 and may be reproduced without charge on condition that the source is acknowledged