4 October, Monday – On The Road That Leads Away From God

Oct 4 – Memorial for St. Francis of Assisi

Francis Bernardone (1181–1226) was the son of Pietro Bernadone, a rich cloth merchant. Though he had a good education and became part of his father’s business, he also had a somewhat misspent youth. He was a street brawler and some-time soldier. He was captured during a conflict between Assisi and Perugia, and spent over a year as prisoner of war. During this time, he had a conversion experience, including a reported message from Christ calling him to leave this worldly life. Upon release, Francis began taking his religion seriously.

He took the Gospel as the rule of his life, Jesus Christ as his literal example. He dressed in rough clothes, begged for his sustenance, and preached purity and peace. His family disapproved, and his father disinherited him; Francis formally renounced his wealth and inheritance. He visited hospitals, served the sick, preached in the streets, and took all men and women as siblings.

He began to attract followers in 1209 and, with papal blessing, founded the Franciscans based on a simple statement by Jesus: “Leave all and follow me.” In 1212, Clare of Assisi became his spiritual student, which led to the founding of the Poor Clares. He visited and preached to the Saracens. He composed songs and hymns to God and nature. He lived with animals, worked with his hands, cared for lepers, cleaned churches, and sent food to thieves. In 1221 he resigned direction of the Franciscans.

While in meditation on La Verna (Mount Alvernia) in the Apennines in September 1224, Francis received the stigmata, which periodically bled during the remaining two years of his life. This miracle has a separate memorial on 17 September.

In the Middle Ages, people who were believed to be possessed by Beelzebub especially called upon the intercession of St. Francis, the theory being that he was the demon’s opposite number in heaven.

“Sanctify yourself and you will sanctify society.” – St. Francis of Assisi

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Jon 1:1-2:1,11
Lk 10:25-37

Jonah decided to run away from the Lord, and to go to Tarshish.

The concept of sin causing us to run away from God has been evident since Adam and Eve hid from God in the Garden of Eden. In today’s readings, we see people from different walks of life running from God – Jonah fleeing to Tarshish to get away from the Lord; the Priest who crossed to the other side of the street rather than confront the man lying half-dead in front of him; the Levite who did the same; the symbol of the sinner, the man on the road who had left the safety of Jerusalem for the dysfunction of Jericho, only to be robbed by vagabonds.

So why do we turn from God? And how do we end up on the road that leads away from Him in the first place? At the heart of our flight is the knowledge that we have fallen short. It is easier to walk away than to confront our shortcomings. In Jonah’s case, it was because he did not want to see God’s mercy extend to the Assyrians. In the time of Jonah, Nineveh was the capital of Assyria. The Assyrians were a wicked, ruthless people, sworn enemies of the Jews of Israel. The idea of having to preach repentance to them was too much for Jonah. Jonah felt that the Assyrians were undeserving of God’s forgiveness. He didn’t care if he was being unforgiving, that his hard heartedness was causing him to sin. What about the Priest and the Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan? Why were they on the road leading away from God? The Priest and the Levite in the parable are symbolic of the religious institutions of that time, who Jesus felt, had been tarnished by sin. Religion is depicted in the Parable of the Samaritan, as having no power to save and redeem; rather Religion is on the same road leading away from God.

Who else is on the road leading away from God? We see Jesus, in the guise of the Good Samaritan, filled with compassion and love for the fallen sinner. The Son himself, is on the road leading away from God, having been sent to seek, to save and redeem all who have lost their way. No matter how far we have fallen from Him, God finds us and offers us the chance to restore ourselves through Jesus Christ. The great truth at the heart of the Bible is God’s faith in us, His love for us, despite ourselves. The prophet Jeremiah sums it up beautifully – “‘Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him?’ declares the Lord. ‘Do I not fill heaven and earth?’ declares the Lord’” (Jeremiah 23:24) Even on the road leading away from Him, there waits God, ready to meet us in our sin. What a picture of grace and forgiveness that is!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for those who are true life Samaritans, who seek, who heal, who redeem and restore all who have been stripped of their dignity through sin.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all the times God has found us and saved us while we languished on the road, bowed down by sin.

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