In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that it was good.
Good is an interesting word here. The Hebrew here can mean other things. Another word could be “beauty” or beautiful. And God saw that it was beautiful. I remember in seminary I had a professor that says beauty can change the world. We like beautiful things, beautiful places. Creation is beautiful. God who created the heavens and the earth the “cosmos” which again at root means beauty. Just think of the word cosmetics.
St. Francis had an interesting life. He loved creation and we say that in the canticle we will say together today before we bless the animals. We see that when we sing the hymn with the words of his famous prayer. Francis struggled with the notion was he to be a contemplative or a preacher, but his friends helped convince him we needed to hear his message. But today as we look at our furry friends and walk out looking at the creation, we love whether the high tree canopy of the neighborhood to the hills above us to the bay below us we are reminded.
Today, I thought I would paint a picture of what Franciscan spirituality looks like. For many we think of creation again, but another hallmark was poverty and simplicity. Among the saints St. Francis was constantly reminded to lighten up because he was very hard on the vow of poverty amongst his friars. What is it in your life do you do that might seem to be a luxury. What do you waste your money on. I am not suggesting we need to claim lady poverty, but it is a good reminder that there are better uses of our resources.
So I am going to give you four hallmark points for you to think about in your spiritual life. These four hallmarks we are invited to contemplate and what you contemplate can change frequently depending on how you feel.
- Gratitude and beauty. What is it you are thankful? What is giving you life? Where do you see beauty? What brings you joy? How do you express that joy?
- For some we are in pain. We are walking around wounded. I don’t mean physically; I mean spiritually and emotionally. During the pandemic, for some they felt more isolated than ever. They joined the great resignation, feeling burned out from their jobs, they experienced grief and loss. Some lost people were not able to have the closure they were looking for. On top of that there became divisive political issues that fragmented relationships with friends and families, and it still continues. If you are one of these people today, I want you to look around the room. And realize you are not alone. There is still a community, a community that communes together and, in that communion, we believe we have the communion of saints of those who have gone before us, those mothers, fathers, grandparents and many generations. We have a God who loves us and a Christ who promises to give us rest.
- In Franciscan spirituality rest is not merely sabbath. When you are tired it is about reengaging and looking new. Point number three to look at the water from new lenses. When we look at something with new eyes, we become renewed refreshes and we reengage in different ways. What is it do you reexamine? What is it the waters of baptism call you to in renewal?
- To go forth. We are a people challenged to spread the gospel. Francis believed in preaching the Gospel. Contemplation leaves to action? What is God calling you to do? What are the actions you are being sent out of these walls to do or even within the walls? How is what you are going to do make a difference and feed your soul? What do you need to feel empowered to move forward. What is that hunger or that thirst that you are ready simply to be released on?
Moving in action can be scary. I am going to leave you with a story about St. Francis. St. Francis did many things and met many people, but his fear was people of leprosy. He would do everything he could to avoid being near them. One day he met a person with leprosy, and he stopped dead in his tracks. Rather than walk away, he engaged. He realized he needed to face his fear so he not only walked up to the leopard, but he hugged and kissed them on the cheek. That action allowed him to see another person who was a child of God. It allowed him to finally realize with God he had nothing to fear.
Let us pray with a prayer from St. Francis and a moment of praise:
You are holy, Lord, the only God, and your deeds are wonderful.
You are strong.
You are great.
You are the Most High, You are almighty.
You, holy Father, are King of heaven and earth.
You are Three and One, Lord God, all good.
You are Good, all Good, supreme Good, Lord God, living and true.
You are love, You are wisdom.
You are humility, You are endurance.
You are rest, You are peace.
You are joy and gladness.
You are justice and moderation.
You are all our riches, And you suffice for us.
You are beauty.
You are gentleness.
You are our protector,
You are our guardian and defender.
You are courage.
You are our haven and our hope.
You are our faith, Our great consolation.
You are our eternal life, Great and wonderful Lord, God almighty, Merciful Savior.