Saint Francis: performing the Gospel

A poor man sculpture

Outside the church of San Damiano, Assisi, Italy

One of the most interesting books I’ve read on Saint Francis is Lawrence Cunningham’s Francis of Assisi: Performing the Gospel of Life. He sees that Francis was not merely interested in preaching the Gospel; Francis wanted to live the Gospel, to be a living Gospel, as a hymn we use here in Honduras says.

Francis was, in Cunningham’s words, “more a performer of the Word of God than a commentator upon it.”  He was “imply a little Umbrian touched by the mysterious power of grace who had a revolutionary idea: to live the life of the Christ of the gospels as closely and as literally as he could.”

This is what Pope Francis seems to be saying in Gaudete et exsultate (¶ 46)

Francis recognized the temptation to turn the Christian experience into a set of intellectual exercises that distance us from the freshness of the Gospel. Saint Bonaventure, on the other hand, pointed out that true Christian wisdom can never be separated from mercy towards our neighbor: “The greatest possible wisdom is to share fruitfully what we have to give… Even as mercy is the companion of wisdom, avarice is its enemy”.

It is so easy to preach about Saint Francis without seeing that what he was up to was trying to be a living Gospel, making the Gospel come alive in daily life, in all its revolutionary calls – to love even the enemy, to be poor and to accompany the poor, to be an instrument of peace, to suffer as Christ suffered.

Words are not as important as the way we live.

This is not, of course, a call to activism. It is a call to discipleship, to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, living as Jesus did.

It is a call to love, to be with God and with God’s people – especially the poor.

Francis is not in the birdbaths; he’s at the side of the poor, walking the roads of the world.


One response to “Saint Francis: performing the Gospel

  1. Pingback: The Upside-Down World of St. Francis | walk the way

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