St. Francis and the Word of God

It is nearly impossible to overstate the profound love St. Francis of Assisi had for the Word of God. The emphatic opening statement of the Rule defines the life of the Friars Minor, “to live the holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” God’s Word is the focal point of Franciscan contemplation, and the fruitful seed which Francis sowed in the hearts of the lesser ones to whom he was sent. And most fundamentally, it is Francis’ encounter with Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word, that totally conforms him to the Lord and inspires the Franciscan movement. All this is to say, St. Francis is a man of the Word.

I am reflecting on the Franciscan embrace of the Word of God since a number of friars and I were recently instituted lectors (i.e. liturgical ministers charged with proclaiming the Sacred Scriptures, except for the Gospel, in the Holy Mass). Though practically everyone is capable of reading, it’s important to remember that this is no mere functional role. It is indeed a ministry, since those instituted lectors become ministers and servants of God’s Word; readers and bearers of the divine message of salvation; agents and instruments of an encounter with the very person of Jesus Christ Who is the Word of God. We can take a cue from St. Francis, who begged his brothers in his Testament to take diligent care of even the smallest fragment with “our Lord’s most holy name and written words.” Francis’ preoccupation is not the pious obsession of a medieval mystic; it is the profound recognition of a serious Christian. All of us, through baptism, are reborn into the life of Christ, Who is “the one single Word, [God’s] one Utterance in whom he expresses himself completely,” as the Catechism of the Catholic Church affirms so beautifully. And this single Word resounds through the Scriptures such that “the Church has always venerated the Scriptures as she venerates the Lord’s Body.” In the presence of this profound mystery, how can we keep from making St. Francis’ joyful expression our own, “O Sublime Humility, O Humble Sublimity!”

As Franciscans, and some of us now as lectors, we are called to be men of the Word. I am so grateful for this opportunity to draw deeper into the mystery of God’s Love given us through his Sacred Scriptures, and to be sent out to proclaim the message of salvation that has been entrusted to me in this ministry. Consider yourself, dear reader, a recipient of this message of God’s Love and invitation to true freedom. Take five minutes today, offer a prayer for an attentive mind and a willing heart to receive what the Lord has ready for you, and read a passage from the Bible (you might start with Matthew 13:1-23). Cultivate this simple daily habit and, I assure you, it will bear great fruit.

O Mother of the Incarnate Word, pray for us!

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