Wednesday, April 2, 2008

April 2 - Saint Francis of Paola, Hermit

Brothers and sisters:
I consider everything as a loss
because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my
Lord. For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things
and I consider them so much rubbish,
that I may gain Christ and be found in him,
not having any righteousness of my own based on the law
but that which comes through faith in Christ,
the righteousness from God,
depending on faith to know him and the power of his
resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by being
conformed to his death, if somehow I may attain the
resurrection from the dead.
It is not that I have already taken hold of it
or have already attained perfect maturity,
but I continue my pursuit in hope that I may possess it,
since I have indeed been taken possession of by Christ Jesus.
Brothers and sisters, I for my part
do not consider myself to have taken possession.
Just one thing: forgetting what lies behind
but straining forward to what lies ahead,
I continue my pursuit toward the goal,
the prize of God's upward calling, in Christ Jesus.
Commentary on Phil 3:8-14

In his own profession he states: all he has given up for the Lord counts for nothing as he holds Christ’s Lordship as the only thing of worth. He goes on to say that it is only through his faith in Christ that he receives salvation, that his former devotion to the Law of Moses did not accomplish salvation (as the Jews believe).

This discourse likely addresses some members of the community who feel they have achieved a high state of grace and have lost their humility. By his example, Paul, who in his status as founder would be considered to have been further along this course, demonstrates the humble attitude that should be present.

St. Paul speaks to the community at Philippi about the primacy of following Christ as the (his) most important possession. He inverts the phrase saying Christ has taken possession of him which should not be interpreted as meaning he believed he had attained perfect spiritual maturity but rather that he (Paul) had given himself totally to the service of Jesus. Paul again uses himself as example, telling the Philippians that (even) he has not achieved the end goal of “perfect maturity” (a final state of grace), rather he still pursues that goal. This selection guides the rule of St. Francis, first in their vows of poverty and second, as Franciscan Order of Minim Fiars, in their view as the least of God’s children.

CCC: Phil 3:8-11 428; Phil 3:8 133; Phil 3:10-11 989, 1006; Phil 3:10 648
Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 16:1-2a and 5, 7-8, 11

R. (see 5a) You are my inheritance, O Lord.
Keep me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the Lord, "My Lord are you."
O Lord, my allotted portion and my cup,
you it is who hold fast my lot.
R. You are my inheritance, O Lord.

I bless the Lord who counsels me;
even in the night my heart exhorts me.
I set the Lord always before me;
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.
R. You are my inheritance, O Lord.

You will show me the path to life,
fullness of joys in your presence,
the delights at your right hand forever.
R. You are my inheritance, O Lord.

Psalm 16 is an individual hymn of praise.  The psalmist prays that God will shield the faithful from harm and expresses confidence in the Lord’s salvation. The passage closes with praise for God’s loving mercy.  This selection is structured to support the Pauline ideal of placing God first in the life of the faithful. Their greatest possession is being loved by God and loving God in return.
Gospel Luke 12:32-34
Jesus said to his disciples:
"Do not be afraid any longer, little flock,
for your Father is pleased to give you the Kingdom. Sell your belongings and give alms.
Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven
that no thief can reach nor moth destroy.
For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be."
Commentary on Lk 12:32-34

This passage is part of a great compilation of the sayings of Jesus in the 12th Chapter. Here the Lord emphasizes the need of true dependence on God alone, a commandment taken to its most extreme by the religious who vow extreme poverty, depending upon God's mercy for subsistence. True treasure is acting on the spiritual impulses that come from God. This greatness of spirit cannot be taken from the one so endowed. Going further, the saying points out that the one who loves the Lord will do works that are pleasing to him as an natural consequence of that love (“For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.”)

CCC: Lk 13:33 557

As we memorialize St. Francis of Paola today, we cannot help but be amazed at the power of the Holy Spirit in supporting those who dedicate themselves to doing God’s will. St. Francis not only inspired many to follow him in his acetic life, but also followed one of the great beatitudes on a grand scale by using Christ’s teachings to bring peace to a strife infested Europe in the course of his life. He died while serving as peacemaker.

We must marvel that, associating with the decadent courts of France, Italy, and Brittany during his ministry he never fell pray to greed, corruption, or the lifestyle indulged by those whose values ran so completely opposite to those proposed by Christ in St. Luke’s Gospel today. This is the model we must take from his heroic virtue.

We are encouraged, first by St. Paul today and then by Jesus, to order our values in accord with what God calls us to be. It is our eternal life with him that Jesus exhorts us to remember. It is possessing Him that must be our first and most important aim, not the accumulation of wealth.

Especially in this time of economic hardship for so many, these are also words of comfort and consolation. The world cannot take away what it cannot understand. Christ’s gift of the Spirit was his to give and ours alone to guard in our hearts. It is this most important gift that lifts us above worldly hurts and gives us the peace, hope and strength to carry on in the face of overwhelming difficulties.


Please Pray for Esther.
[1] The Picture used on this memorial is “Francis of Paola” by Marco Pitteri, date is UNKNOWN

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