While it is difficult – almost impossible – to narrow down what the primary blessing it was that St. Francis of Assisi gave to the world, I would venture to assert, that Francis was an extension of the Jesus event – he carried on with becoming, along with Paul and the saints before him – announcing and becoming the “Christ.”
And what is the mission of this stirring Christ-presence? To help us change our thinking – that Jesus did not come to save us from God’s wrath and condemnation (atonement), but rather, to see rightly, perhaps for the first time, to actually change our attitudes about who God really is!
The abundance of God’s goodness and love wipes away any belief that we have to have a relationship with God (if we can call such notions, “relationship”) that is obsessed with sacrifice and reparation. Jesus shatters this understanding by charting a new course, that “once and for all” ends such nonsensical thinking (Hebrews 7:27; 9:12; 10:10); we do not have to live with such tremendous shame. Grace wins out! Freedom to love is the new way! There are no “insiders” or “outsiders.” Inclusion is not just a fanciful utopian thought; it is real, as Peter makes it clear:
“I begin to see how very true it is that God shows no partiality – rather, that any person of any nationality who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to God” (Acts 10:34-35).
We do not have to be found to be “suitable” or “worthy.” Jesus accomplishes this proclamation not because of his horrific execution – but more critically, by the things he said and did and proclaimed that made the authorities so uncomfortable and anxious that they seemed to have no choice but to kill him.
Why? Because he was challenging and exposing the lies told about God – that God was one who punishes, who holds humanity in contempt. Jesus was always hanging around the wrong people; he worked on the Sabbath; he was breaking the rules – rules that kept the status-quo thinking alive that one should offer prayers and sacrifice, but goodness no, do not actually act and live and behave in the biblical tradition of serving the poor, clothing the naked, visiting the prisoner, and healing the sick (Matthew 25). No wonder the authorities thought him to be trouble, no wonder they felt as though he needed to be neutralized. He was a threat to their sense of power and control.
Francis too – by embracing and kissing the leper, by offering bread and wine to those who beat him and threw him into the ditch, by enduring the ridicule of many who thought him to be crazy – became an endless song and dance of God’s true nature. Francis WAS crazy. As the old Cheech and Chong routine once satirized the hippie who experienced conversion: “I once was all messed up on drugs – but now that I have found the Lord, I’m all messed up on the Lord!”
Being all “messed up on the Lord” is to have some clarity and vision that ALL are part of God’s family, without reserve, without judgment. Who are these folks today? Well, they are the addicts, those who many in society see as lepers: the immigrant, the gay or transgender person, those who follow spiritual and religious traditions that are different, and so in our eyes, must have something wrong with them. So, it follows that they must be stopped.
Francis, like Jesus, John the Baptist, Peter and Paul, Mary Magdalene, and so many of the saints that came before and after him, was most certainly “crazy” and “all messed up on the Lord.”
The result was, and continues to be, that we are given a new way to see our God. And what a wonderful sight it is. It is time for us to get all crazy about this God; to become the mess that God sees in only one way: we are all, most holy.
Copyright © 2019 David Haas / The Emmaus Center for Music, Prayer & Ministry. Used with permission. All rights reserved.