And I Mean To Be One, Too
Beloved in Christ,
Today is the feast of St. Francis of Assisi. Francis is undoubtedly one of the most widely recognized and well-loved saints in Christian history. But the popular image of the animal loving, granola type who loved nature doesn’t do full justice to who Francis is. He was a radical in the purest sense. His life’s project was literally to “return to the roots” of the Jesus movement. His central question is as shocking as it is simple: what if we really took Jesus at his word? What if we tried, in a very real way, to live as Jesus taught? What would it look like to embrace the simplicity, sacrificial love, forgiveness, and utter dependence on God that Jesus both modeled and taught would be the mark of his true disciples?
But he didn’t simply assume this vocation because it was an interesting idea, or because he loved nature. When he looked at the church of his day, he saw widespread apathy among both clergy and laity, corruption at every level, people engaging faith as a consumer transaction rather than a way of life. As he sat in the physical ruins of the church of San Damiano, he had a vision of Jesus telling him, “rebuild my church.” His life was about inviting the church to recover the sense of God’s realness, of the way the gospel heals and liberates the world by cutting against how we are wired to think, act, and live. His life was committed to joining God’s ongoing work to reform and renew the church, so that we can join God in reforming and renewing the whole world.
I am convinced that what we need most in this moment is not better programs, or more money, or good marketing, or fuller pews. What the world and the church need most right now is more saints. What we need most is individuals and communities who are living with truly radical love, with a commitment to forgiveness and mercy in a world marked by scorn and contempt, who point to the liberating paradox of God’s economics that we are fed by giving, and we are saved by dying.
Beloved, our life’s work is not to try harder and achieve more, but to learn how to so completely depend on God’s power and love that we reflect that love in all we are and do, drawing ever more lost and wounded souls into the healing embrace of God’s love. I hope you will join me in praying for God to make more saints, and to make your prayer, in the words of the popular hymn, “and I mean to be one, too.”
Grace and peace,
The Right Reverend Craig Loya