“You know me, and you know where I am from” (John 7:28).
Jesus is responding to some of the Jews saying that “When the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from.” This becomes an issue again and again throughout the Gospels. We like to think that the origins of our holy people are shrouded in mystery, in part because it allows us to set them apart as different from us. This gives us a built-in reason not to emulate them too closely. The incarnation turns this upside down. Suddenly we discover that our God became one of us, precisely to show us how to live.
Many of our saints are identified by their place of origin. In some cases this is to differentiate them from other saints who share the same name. In others, it’s because of a local veneration that developed either during or after their lifetimes. Francis of Assisi is one of those saints identified with a particular place. The town in which he was born and where he lived his entire life shaped the way he viewed the world, the places he discovered God’s presence, his awareness of the people he served. In visiting Assisi, pilgrims come to understand more about Francis than they could in any other way.
Like Jesus of Nazareth, Francis of Assisi was able to accomplish a great deal in a small, somewhat obscure village. They know that proximity to power, to wealth, to a thriving metropolis doesn’t guarantee the kind of impact they seek to have on the world. We can take comfort in this, especially if we ourselves aren’t particularly well-placed. We can also be challenged by it. Suddenly we have no excuse not to do what we can in whatever place we find ourselves. We don’t need to move to a big city—or to mission territory. The kingdom of God is in our midst in all places and at all times. All we need to do is acknowledge it and spread that awareness to others through lives faithful to the Gospel.
—from the book Lent with St. Francis: Daily Reflections
by Diane M. Houdek