that Pleases God, from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah 58:1-12
St. Francis of Assisi used to say that “the deed you do may be the only sermon some persons will hear today.” I consider those words even more useful today, because we have no idea how unequal our society has become. Let us devote this very short time that we have before being no more in the land of the living to do the necessary deeds.
I agree with St. Francis that it is important that we “do good while we still have time.” This is what St. Paul said at the beginning of his letter to the Galatians: “when we have the opportunity to help anyone, we should do it. But we should give special attention to those who are in the family of believers” (Galatians 6:10).
For all these reasons I would have my mind remain open to the words of Anne Frank, “no one has ever become poor by giving.” The true meaning of being a believer is opening my eyes. It reminds me what we need to do as Franciscans, is exactly this: we need to come together, to get to know and to help each other, especially by giving a little more attention to those who are poor. And most of all we must stop making judgements about people we don’t really know.
The peace prayer teaches us how to be an example of hope “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace: where there is despair, hope…O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console…for it is in giving that we receive.” These are wisdom words; they will be more profitable or beneficial to the friar who puts them into practice than the friar who merely learns them.
And, as the Prophet Isaiah says also:
Why have we fasted,’they say,and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed? Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?
This, I believe, is the only fast that pleases God. Of all subjects, it is only what you have given. As St. Francis tells us: “remember that when you leave this earth, you can take with you nothing that you have received – only what you have given.” Besides, as Pope Francis very well observed, such dedication to those in need has some very rewarding consequences, particularly in the matter of the feeding of the poor and hungry around us, “clothing the naked” (Mt 25:36), and sharing the hope that comes through the resurrected Christ. If I ever have my own office, I will line it with images of the hungry and immigrants, and with images that show all life is deserving of respect and protection.
It is remarkable how our Seraphic Father Francis shows his concern for the ‘salvation and wellbeing’ of the friars of his order, and how much attention he pays to their care, emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual. I would like to end by encouraging all of us to think of a few in our orbit who might need our help. Honestly, it is not true that nobody is listening, because thankfully 2020 reminded me we are one human race, under God’s grace.
Let us hope as we go forward, together. No man or woman is an island. We have to reach out and try to help each other, to which we must apply St. Francis of Assisi habitual phrase: “Remember when you leave this earth, you can take with you nothing that you have received – only what you have given: a heart enriched by honest service, love, sacrifice and courage!”
friar R. Nicholas Maria Lubin OFM Conv.