Sunday, October 3, 2010


“St Francis of Assisi at Prayer”
by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, 1645-50


Biographical Information about St. Francis Assisi [1]

Readings for the Memorial of St. Francis of Assisi

Readings and Commentary:

Galatians 6:14-18

Brothers and sisters:
May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,
through which the world has been crucified to me,
and I to the world.
For neither does circumcision mean anything, nor does uncircumcision,
but only a new creation.
Peace and mercy be to all who follow this rule and to the Israel of God.
From now on, let no one make troubles for me;
for I bear the marks of Jesus on my body.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit,
brothers and sisters. Amen.

Commentary on
Gal 6:14-18

St. Paul, in this selection, tells the Galatians that the Good News of Christ (and Him crucified) is for all people, not just for those who came from the Jewish tradition (“For neither does circumcision mean anything, nor does uncircumcision, but only a new creation”). He then tells his audience that, not through the ancient marks of branding does he belong to Christ, but through the marks of his persecution (from stonings and beatings).

CCC: Gal 6:15 1214
Psalm 16:1b-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 ever 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.
Commentary on
Ps 16:1b-2a and 5, 7-8, 11

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; closing the passage 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 psalmist, their greatest possession being loved by God and loving God in return.

Matthew 11:25-30

At that time Jesus answered:
"I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to the childlike.
Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.
All things have been handed over to me by my Father.
No one knows the Son except the Father,
and no one knows the Father except the Son
and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.
"Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light."

Commentary on
Mt 11:25-30

Jesus has just completed a fairly scathing criticism of the people in the places he has been and performed miracles, yet many have not accepted him as the Messiah. He now concludes this section as he reflects that, while the Scribes and Pharisees (“the wise and learned”) have not understood who he is, those with simple faith have accepted him freely. He then issues an invitation to all who “labor and are burdened” quoting an invitation similar to one in the book of Sirach to learn wisdom and submit to her yoke (Sirach 51:23, 26).

“This Q saying, identical with Luke 10:21-22 except for minor variations, introduces a joyous note into this section, so dominated by the theme of unbelief. While the wise and the learned, the scribes and Pharisees, have rejected Jesus' preaching and the significance of his mighty deeds, the childlike have accepted them. Acceptance depends upon the Father's revelation, but this is granted to those who are open to receive it and refused to the arrogant. Jesus can speak of all mysteries because he is the Son and there is perfect reciprocity of knowledge between him and the Father; what has been handed over to him is revealed only to those whom he wishes.” [3]

The final verses of this section are found only in St. Matthew’s Gospel and promise salvation to those who are downtrodden or in pain.
CCC: Mt 11:25-27 2603, 2779; Mt 11:25-26 2701; Mt 11:25 153, 544, 2785; Mt 11:27 151, 240, 443, 473; Mt 11:28 1658; Mt 11:29-30 1615; Mt 11:29 459

If St. Francis was alive and saw the Gospel selection the Church has selected for his memorial we are pretty sure he would offer a slightly embarrassed laugh. He would laugh not because the Lord calls us to have the simple faith of the childlike and those reflecting upon that call might think of him as being somewhat childlike. On the contrary, according to all that is written about him, St. Francis had a brilliant mind and a keen sense of justice coupled with such skill in communication that the wise and unschooled alike heard his words and were moved to action.

He would not have laughed because the Gospel calls us to be humble. No, St. Francis, who rejected ordination to the priesthood because he did not feel worthy, embraced humility and rejected the finery that was his birthright. The rule he established for his order made humility the hallmark of his legacy.

No, we think St. Francis may have found it amusing that the Lord tells those who labor his “…yoke is easy.” The yoke, taken literally, was part of the harness placed upon beasts of burden so that they could be controlled and steered in the right direction. By implication, the commandments Jesus placed upon the poor were easy to follow. Comparatively, when measured against pharisaic laws, that may have been true. However, the simplicity of “love one another” is incredibly difficult as St. Francis found out. He lived that commandment more fully than any in his day and would have found it somewhat humorous to hear that direction called “easy”.

Of course for Jesus who was love personified, his yoke was easy. And for the poor of spirit whose only requirement was to accept Christ’s love, perhaps it was relatively easy (although one might argue that accepting Christ’s love is also difficult at times).

St Francis and his modern day contemporaries show us the meaning of that yoke and burden and the Church thanks him and honors him for his example. Today we ask for his prayers. May we who try to follow the Savior be given some portion of his grace that we may accomplish the will of the One True God.


[1] The picture is “St Francis of Assisi at Prayer” by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, 1645-50
[2] The readings are taken from the New American Bible with the exception of the Psalm and its response which were developed by the International Committee for English in Liturgy (ICEL). This re-publication is not authorized by USCCB and is for private use only.
[3] See NAB footnote on Matthew 11:25ff

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