On this feast of St. Francis, one of the most beloved of Christian saints, I was struck by the second lectionary reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians (PHIL 4:6-9). It’s an uplifting text that is familiar and rather typical of Paul in his moments of encouragement to the followers of Jesus. What crossed my mind, however, about this reading today was the similarity in the lives of Francis and Paul regarding suffering.
Reading Francis, especially works like his “Canticle of the Creatures,” one would sometimes think his life as one idyllic, carefree day after another. We know, however, the suffering he endured from others, in his own body and even from his “band of brothers.” Yet he was always aware of the presence and blessings of God. Paul’s trials were similar if not matching – most at the hands of those who persecuted him for the faith he had found in Christ.
I can hear Francis echoing the words of Paul from the Letter to the Philippians this morning and I give thanks for both as worthy servants of God. Listen:
Brothers and sisters: have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think on these things…Then the God of peace will be with you.