Franciscan Spirit Blog

Novena to St. Francis | Day Three: The Gospels

We would be missing something if we were only given a sheet of music to experience Johann Sebastian Bach’s music or an unpainted or darkened Caravaggio canvas. Music is experienced through sound and vibration, while art is enjoyed through sight and the interplay of light, darkness, and touch. In a similar way, the Gospel of Jesus Christ was much more than mere words inked on parchment and artistically bound for St. Francis of Assisi. It was a way of life.

On April 16, 1208, Francis and Bernard stopped together at the little church of San Nicolo in Assisi. Three times they opened the Gospel, and the shape of the life of the Franciscan community took form in the Lord’s words—a life of poverty, preaching, and penance lived in a spirit of humility. For Francis, the Gospel was both a historical event and a present reality. The Word of God, the Incarnation, Jesus the Christ, God in human form: Jesus was real! We recall the imagery of Francis building the first living creche in the little mountain village of Greccio, not because he wanted to start a new trend, but because he wanted to fully experience that sacred moment when God became one of us.

Murray Bodo, OFM, writes in his book Francis and Jesus, “In the heart of night the townspeople crossed from Greccio to the hermitage carrying lighted candles and singing Christmas songs. They were amazed at the scene before them, the live Christmas crib that made them see the poverty and humility of God…. So excited was Francis that when he preached, he could not say Bethlehem without bleating like a lamb when he pronounced the word, ‘Betlemme.’”

This beautiful and humble scene was 800 years ago, but anyone who accepts this life accepts God’s mission to continually bring forth Christ in our world.

In the Letter to All the Faithful, Francis wrote, “We are…[His] mothers when we carry Him in our heart and body through love and a pure and sincere conscience; and give Him birth through a holy activity, which must shine before others by example.” He shows us that the Bible is not a book to be read, but a text to be performed. I think another way of putting it is taken from a friar I know who often says, “It is better to show than to know.”

Francis embraced the Gospel and challenged the difficulties of his time: faith, church, and society. In our difficult time, it is now ours to do. 

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Let Us Pray

Loving God, allow your Word to enter profoundly into every fiber of my being
so that I too may respond, like St. Francis, and live a radically Gospel life.


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