|In his encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, our Holy Father Pope Francis writes:
There is an episode in the life of Saint Francis that shows his openness of heart, which knew no bounds and transcended differences of origin, nationality, colour or religion. It was his visit to Sultan Malik-el-Kamil, in Egypt, which entailed considerable hardship, given Francis’ poverty, his scarce resources, the great distances to be traveled and their differences of language, culture and religion. That journey, undertaken at the time of the Crusades, further demonstrated the breadth and grandeur of his love, which sought to embrace everyone. Francis’ fidelity to his Lord was commensurate with his love for his brothers and sisters. Unconcerned for the hardships and dangers involved, Francis went to meet the Sultan with the same attitude that he instilled in his disciples: if they found themselves “among the Saracens and other nonbelievers”, without renouncing their own identity they were not to “engage in arguments or disputes, but to be subject to every human creature for God’s sake”. In the context of the times, this was an extraordinary recommendation. We are impressed that some eight hundred years ago Saint Francis urged that all forms of hostility or conflict be avoided and that a humble and fraternal “subjection” be shown to those who did not share his faith.
Francis did not wage a war of words aimed at imposing doctrines; he simply spread the love of God. He understood that “God is love and those who abide in love abide in God” (1 Jn 4:16). In this way, he became a father to all and inspired the vision of a fraternal society. Indeed, “only the man who approaches others, not to draw them into his own life, but to help them become ever more fully themselves, can truly be called a father”. In the world of that time, bristling with watchtowers and defensive walls, cities were a theatre of brutal wars between powerful families, even as poverty was spreading through the countryside. Yet there Francis was able to welcome true peace into his heart and free himself of the desire to wield power over others. He became one of the poor and sought to live in harmony with all. Francis has inspired these pages (Fratelli Tutti, §3 and 4).
On this day of human fraternity, let us pray for the vision of Saint Francis, to discern God’s presence in everything around us: the beauties of the natural world and in all of God’s creatures, and in each human being, who is a reflection of some aspect of God’s truth and beauty and goodness. Let us pray especially for the grace to discern God’s presence in those people who are most different from ourselves: different in ethnicity, skin color, language, or culture.
Our world at present is, as we know, a deeply troubled place. Social media increasingly brings the whole world into our living rooms, but that immediacy is sometimes greeted with fear, because it may seem to pose a threat to our own sense of identity and security. Let us pray for the grace to move beyond our fears and limitations, and to be able to be deeply rooted in God’s love for all of God’s creation, without distinction.
As the American Franciscan priest Father Richard Rohr has so eloquently written, “When we love something, we grant it soul, we see its soul, and we let its soul touch ours. We must love something deeply to know its soul (anima). Before the resonance of love, we are largely blind to the meaning, value, and power of ordinary things to “save” us and help us live in union with the source of all being. In fact, until we can appreciate and even delight in the soul of other things, even trees and animals, we probably haven’t discovered our own souls either. Soul knows soul through love, which is why it’s the great commandment “(Matthew 22:36).
4 Feb 2022
Fr. David, Mission promoter
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