4 October, Tuesday — My Past is not My Present

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

  • Patron Saint Index

Gal 1:13-24
Lk 10:38-42

You must have heard of my career as a practising Jew, how merciless I was in persecuting the Church of God, how much damage I did to it…”

St Francis of Assisi once said, “I have been all things unholy; if God can work through me, he can work through anyone.” And he would know it, having “lived in sin”, as he put it, in his younger days.  

I don’t think anyone of us can claim to have had a spotless record, even up till now. We too might have gone wayward in our youth like St Francis did and made some mistakes and regretted some decisions. But even as we try to move forward, we carry our baggage with us and accumulate it. And just as we tag our own luggage, we tag our emotional baggage and allow it to define us. We allow it to have a ‘voice’ in our lives.

That ‘voice’ is the one that whispers to us, telling us that we are not good enough because of our past, that people would cancel us if they knew, we would be social outcasts. No one would trust us if they knew who we used to be. And we hide, we don’t think that God will love us or give us a second chance. How could He, when we have done such terrible things? And since it’s pointless anyway, we continue living the same way as much as we don’t want to.

If this is you right now, don’t give up hope. Don’t stop searching for God. Be patient. God did not give St Francis the answer he sought right away. It took prayer and patience, and it will be the same for us too. But more importantly, we must hold on to the belief that God truly is a God of second chances, that He really wants to bring us closer to Him, to depend on Him. He wants us to experience His love and take us under the shelter of His wing and soothe us. He feels our hurts and hears our doubts. He understands our insecurities. He wants to say, “Child, I know. And it’s okay.”

The sad part is that we care too much about what other people think and say about us and we allow it to set our narratives. We are our harshest critics, and it is dangerous what we tell ourselves because what we think, we become. This kind of thinking makes it harder for us to believe that we deserve to be happy or feel worthy. It took me a while to understand that the reverse was true. And every time I felt happy, I would feel that it was too good to be true and I would run away again and retreat into that negative ‘comfort zone’. I’m still treading with a little trepidation, but each time I turn back to God, it gets easier. I feel more confident in moving forward because I know He’s not going to let me down. I still feel fear sometimes, always second-guessing myself. But if God can do wonderful things though people like Moses and St Paul and Jonah and St Francis, why not us? They were ordinary folk, sinners like us. Fearful like us. Each with a checkered past, some worse than others. Yet God loved them more than they loved themselves, more than they allowed to love themselves. Our past does not define us with God. He has already written us in the palm of His hand. Our past has been forgiven through the blood of our beloved Saviour. Let it go. Let it go and live the life that God has intended for us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, help us to let go of our past and don’t let it define us anymore. Let us set it at the foot of the cross and move forward with renewed hope and faith in the love You have for us.

Thanksgiving: Thank you God, for loving me when I loved myself least, for believing in me more than I dared to believe in myself, for seeing me worthy even when I couldn’t. Thank you for not forsaking me even in my darkest hours.

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