- The Revd Canon Camellia Flanagan, TSSF
Instruments of peace and radical change
211003 Creation 5. St Francis
Micah 6:6-8 Psalm100 Galatians 6:14-18 Luke 12:22-31
+In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
It is rare these days to speak of Saint Francis without mentioning Saint Clare. Saint Francis of Assisi was a nature mystic and Saint Clare was a mystic in her own right. Neither were scholars or theologians as we define these roles. But both sought to mediate through the discipline of study, a living faith, prayer, and a call to transform the existing culture by doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with God.
They thought about God, came to know God through prayer and contemplation of sacred texts and they knew about God through “doing” ministry and living the apostolic life. They chose to live the gospel and to follow in the footsteps of Christ.
Through Francis’ life experience he became conscious of God’s unconditional love when he embraced a poverty-stricken person with leprosy, with a heart sensitive to misery, and he was drawn to a Spirit filled life which took him into the very Heart of God. He realised his spiritual poverty once he had glimpsed the infinitely loving and gracious God, and understood our human limitations of sin, arrogant self-centeredness, biases, and prejudices.
Francis chose to face the world with open mind, heart, and hands, not clinging to anything as his own and prayer enabled him to see the world with the eyes of the Spirit of its Creator.
The abundance of creation taught Francis that the world is good, and it will provide for every human need. It is an example of the nature of God. Francis saw creation as showing Christ to us – everything, the earth, caves in the rocks, flowers, birds, lepers, rich and poor people were all recognised as the incarnate Christ, the human baby born in Bethlehem.
Because Jesus Christ chose human form and limits of time and space of this world, the goodness of the world is affirmed. As humans and as followers of Christ our place in this world is also affirmed. We do not need to escape from this world to be in the presence of Christ. The kingdom of God is all around us. The purpose of created existence is the loving transforming union of creation with the Creator as is seen in the Incarnation and glorification of Christ. In other words, seen in the life of Jesus on earth and that he ascended to be at the right hand of God for eternity. In our Baptism we are united with Christ and are baptised into his death and his resurrection and through faith are given the gift of eternal life with him.
The Franciscan evangelical life lives the gospel in the footsteps of Christ understanding God as a compassionate lover seen in Christ and his life on earth in the flesh, and in all creation. As God looks lovingly at creation, so we humans must reach out to the poor, the oppressed and forgotten, the polluted environment, and the threatened species. Can we value all creation, cherish its every member in all its diversity for its own sake and see that each reveal something of God to us?
The gospel message tells us not to worry. But how can we avoid it? Only faith can free us from the anxiety caused by greed and covetousness. It is good to work and plan responsibly. It is not good to dwell on all the ways our planning could go wrong. Worry is pointless because it can’t fill any of our needs. The Creator of the universe loves us and knows what we need and promises to meet all our real needs but not necessarily our desires. Can we be involved in seeking the kingdom of God central to all that we do? If we make God central to our lives, we will receive the insight and guidance we need.
That God is Good was a byword for Saint Francis…
What if we all understood that God is good, that creation is good, that we are good, and that the world, and all creation, ourselves, the earth itself are all in some way made in the image of Christ? Would we tolerate poverty and oppression? Would we abuse our earth by stripping the land of its abundance and capacity to rejuvenate itself? Would we allow industrial activity and methods for generating the energy we need to sustain this current lifestyle pollute, and destroy the purity of the earth on which we live?
We now find our world in a condition of ecological crisis and vulnerability. We have been asked to care for Creation and to treat each member as having intrinsic value and moral status. We have ignored and trampled on the goodness of God and integrity of creation, and we are now living with the consequences of our greed. The human species is not excluded from the sad picture of ongoing extinction of species that we are all aware of. The richest 1% of the world’s population holds 43% of all personal wealth and 50% or half of the world’s population own 1% of the world’s personal wealth.
This earth that is our home is a closed space, sunlight only, comes from outside our boundary. For better or for worse we are linked in one household and all of us and earth are linked, and we need to find better rules for surviving and thriving as an entire family if any of us are to live a life of abundance and live in the fullest sense as God intended.
The purpose of human activity has changed from maximising quality of life for all members to making the greatest profit and market share for a few elite stockholders and owners. We cannot flee from this earthly home, so we need to face the facts and act.
The notion of ecology formulated in 1866 – only recently and in our time, was quickly understood as trinitarian, or in three parts in unity. It embraces environmental ecology or in other words is concerned with the environmental relationship between species, societies, and history. Social ecology concerns social relations of humans and their relationship with nature through exploitation, collaboration, respect, and reverence. Mental ecology is the recognition that nature is within a human being, not outside them but within the mind as psychic energy and behaviour patterns that can embody attitudes of aggression, destruction, or respect.
St Francis realised that humans had abused creation and failed to honour the Creator. With his heart burning he wrote the Canticle of the Creatures and a paraphrase of this is our offertory hymn to be sung later in the service
We still use up Creation and are at times ungrateful for God’s many blessings. Can we be instruments of change, action and prayer through which transformation and conversion can take place? Then the world in which we live will move ever closer to the loving, patient, and grieving heart of God and be transformed so that all will say “ it is very good.” Amen
The Reverend Canon Camellia Flanagan TSSF