SAINT Francis of Assisi
He was the son of a wealthy 12th-century Italian merchant, and early in his life was devoted to partying and his enjoying his social status. After an illness his life changed: He began a life of evangelical poverty, living by begging. His followers are called the Franciscans. Francis died in 1226, having started a revolution. The Franciscans endure to this day.
Francis, the man of God, left his home behind, abandoned his inheritance and became poor and penniless, but the Lord raised him up.
O God, by whose gift Saint Francis was conformed to Christ in poverty and humility, grant that, by walking in Francis’ footsteps, we may follow your Son, and, through joyful charity, come to be united with you. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
First reading: Nehemiah 2:1-8
In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, the wine being my concern, I took up the wine and offered it to the king. Now I had never been downcast before. So the king said, “Why is your face so sad? You are not sick, surely? This must be a sadness of the heart.” A great fear came over me and I said to the king, “May the king live for ever! How could my face be other than sad when the city where the tombs of my ancestors are lies in ruins, and its gates have been burnt down?” “What,” the king asked. “is your request?” I called on the God of heaven and made this reply to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if you are satisfied with your servant, give me leave to go to Judah, to the city of my ancestors” tombs, and rebuild it.” The king, with the queen sitting there beside him, said, “How long will your journey take, and when will you return?” So I named a date that seemed acceptable to the king and he gave me leave to go. I spoke to the king once more, “If it please the king, could letters be given me for the governors of Transeuphrates to allow me to pass through to Judah? And also a letter for Asaph, keeper of the king’s park, to supply me with timber for the gates of the citadel of the Temple, for the city walls and for the house I am to occupy?” This the king granted me, for the kindly favour of my God was with me.
Psalm 136 (137):1-6
R/ O let my tongue cleave to my mouth if I remember you not!
By the rivers of Babylon there we sat and wept, remembering Zion; on the poplars that grew there we hung up our harps.
For it was there that they asked us, our captors, for songs, our oppressors, for joy. ‘Sing to us,’ they said, ‘one of Zion’s songs.’
O how could we sing the song of the Lord on alien soil? If I forget you, Jerusalem, let my right hand wither!
O let my tongue cleave to my mouth if I remember you not, if I prize not Jerusalem above all my joys!
Gospel Acclamation: Ps118:105
Alleluia, alleluia! Your word is a lamp for my steps and a light for my path. Alleluia!
Gospel: Luke 9:57-62
As Jesus and his disciples travelled along they met a man on the road who said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus answered, “Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Another to whom he said, “Follow me”, replied, “Let me go and bury my father first.” But he answered, “Leave the dead to bury their dead; your duty is to go and spread the news of the kingdom of God.” Another said, “I will follow you, sir, but first let me go and say goodbye to my people at home.” Jesus said to him, “Once the hand is laid on the plough, no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Prayer over the Offerings
As we bring you these offerings, O Lord, we pray that we may be rightly disposed for the celebration of the mystery of the Cross, which Saint Francis so ardently embraced. Through Christ our Lord.
Communion Antiphon: Mt 5: 3
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Prayer after Communion
Grant us, we pray, O Lord, through these holy gifts which we have received, that, imitating the charity and apostolic zeal of Saint Francis, we may experience the effects of your love and spread them everywhere for the salvation of all. Through Christ our Lord.
Less than the foxes, less than the birds of the air. That is, no shelter, no support, nothing! Should we understand these words of Jesus as an expression of distress similar to that of a homeless person, a wanderer? Jesus was not a homeless person; the Gospel notes several points where he could get some rest. Rather, it would seem that he wanted to dot the “I”s for the enthusiastic person who declares, somewhat emphatically, that he wants to follow him anywhere. Following Christ is not fulfilment of the dream of an ideal or comfortable life. No, we must expect a radical stripping, with no turning back, as the end of this passage becomes clear. It is a vigorous warning, but can it discourage a generous heart truly captivated by Christ?