16th September, 2020
Tomorrow is the Feast of the Stigmata of Saint Francis)
I waited, I waited for the Lord and he stooped down to me, he heard my cry.
He drew me from the deadly pit, from the miry clay.
He set my feet upon a rock and made my footsteps firm.
He put a new song into my mouth, praise of our God.
Many shall see and fear and shall trust in the Lord.
Happy the one who has placed his trust in the Lord
and has not gone over to the rebels who follow false gods.
O let there be rejoicing and gladness for all who seek you!
LITANY OF PRAISE:
Our response to our prayers of praise and thanks is:
Lord of my life, let me live in your presence!
SCRIPTURE READING: Galatians:6:14-17
As for me, the only thing I can boast about is the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world. It does not matter if a person is circumcised or not; what matters is for him to become an altogether new creature. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, who form the Israel of God.
The word of the Lord.
It was in 1224, two years before his death, that Francis went with his companions to La Verna, a mountain retreat. Round about the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross, September 14th, he had a vision in which he saw a man like a seraph – he had six wings and was standing above him with his hands outstretched and his feet joined together and was fixed to a cross. Francis was amazed and wondered what this vision might mean. He was filled with joy at the way the seraph was looking at him but the sight of his cruel suffering terrified him – joy and grief alternated in him – and as the strangeness of the vision continued to haunt him, the marks of the nails began to appear on his hands and feet, just like those he had seen on the crucified figure above him.
Francis had always sung the praises of the Almighty God throughout his life, but, in fact, when he arrived at la Verna, the song that had been flowing seemed to have died out. He was facing a terrible crisis. The movement he had founded was becoming institutionalized and was losing its evangelical intensity and some of his brothers questioned whether such a lifestyle was totally viable.
All this had repercussions for Francis’s own faith. He had begun to question the authenticity of everything that he had experienced so deeply. He doubted the divine origin of the plan he had for his life. These questions and doubts resounded amid an oppressive silence on God’s part. God no longer seemed to speak to him, despite his persistence in seeking God. Francis felt abandoned by God. He withdrew from his brothers. He did not want them to see him, since his countenance lacked its customary serenity. Thus God’s gift to Francis of a new song did not come during a time of personal peace and consolation. Rather God gave him the song at a time when – as the psalmist says – ‘foundations were being destroyed’ and everything seemed uncertain.
Through the Stigmata, God gave Francis a new depth of communion with him and conformed him to His death in a way that Francis had never experienced before. When Francis came down from the mountain, he looked at the world from the Lord’s Cross. He came down singing the new song that the Lord had put on his lips. Now Francis knew that he was not called to resolve everyone’s problems. Rather, he was to be a sign to everyone by freely giving himself to others in faithfulness, power, patience, diligence, mercy and joy!
INTERCESSIONS: Lord, in your mercy . . . Hear our prayer
CLOSING PRAYER: (Hermann Shalluck OFM)
May the Lord bless us. May he fill our feet with dancing and our arms with strength. May he fill our hearts with tenderness and our eyes with laughter. May he fill our ears with music, our mouth with jubilation and our hearts with joy. May he give us all ever anew the strength to give hope a new face. May the Lord bless us. Amen.