St. Francis of Assisi went about the world saying: I am the herald of the great king!
As you probably know, a herald is the one who walks before the king and blows the trumpet
and announces the kings arrival. St. Francis saw his role as that of announcing to the
world the presence of Christ the King.
I am the herald of the great king would also serve as a good self-description for each of
us. For each of usin our own wayis called to announce the arrival of Christs saving presence
in our own world. This is especially true as the seasons of Advent and Christmas unfold.
But what kind of king is coming? What kind of king are we to proclaim?
In the readings of the Feast of Christ the King (November 21 this year), we got a double
imagea two-sided picture of Jesusand one side seemed to contradict the other.
On the one hand, we see Christ, the glorious King, the ruler
of the universe. On the other, we see the lamb who was slain. We look a short
distance below the inscription at top of Jesus cross: The King of the Jews. We see the bruised human face of Christ as he is jeered and ridiculed by
the soldiers and others.
The glorious king? Or the slain lamb? Yes, it seems like a riddle.
But you and I know how to solve this riddle, because St. Paul already solved it for us
in a famous passage from Philippians (2:6-8) that we have all heard many times. Paul tells us that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, did not cling to his divine glory
or royal rank but emptied himself and took the form of a slaveto the point of laying
down his life for those he loved.
In short, the Son of God and King of the Universe chose to be poor and
humble. He chose to be the lamb that was slain that we might come to fullness of life. St.
Francis was awestruck upon seeing the most high God being reducedwillinglyto poverty
Francis saw this especially in the mystery of Jesus Incarnation and
birthin Gods becoming a creatureborn as a frail, helpless child in a poor stable in
Bethlehem and lying in a crude manger. But at the same time that St. Francis saw the King
of Creation becoming poor, he also saw humanity and the whole realm of creation becoming
rich and elevated to a new dignity.
St. Francis never saw himself isolated from or unrelated to other
creatures. Thats why he called all creatures his brothers and sisters. Francis taught
us that its not a good idea to separate ourselves from the rest of creation.
Think of it: If you or I removed ourselves completely from the warmth of
Brother Sun, what would happen? We would quickly freeze to death! If we were to succeed in
cutting ourselves off from Brother Air and Sister Water and Mother
Earthwell you know what would happen: Someone would soon have to write our death notices
and notify our next of kin!
In St. Francis mind, Christmas was a feast to be celebrated by all creatures,
not only by humans. Because God entered the family of creation that first Christmas and made
this earth his home, all creatures received a new glory. And Francis wanted them all to
celebrate Gods coming among us.
Francis believed that all his brother and sister creatureswild
animals, birds, trees, flowers and mineralswere profoundly blessed by the Christmas event.
It is recorded in the life of Francis that on Christmas Day he wanted the
emperor to instruct all citizens to spread grain on the roads so that the birds would have plenty
to eatand thus join the celebration of Gods entering the family of creation on Christmas.
The beasts in the stables should also be given a feast-day meal. In short, all our fellow creatures
should be included in the celebration of this feast.
Last weeks Feast of Christ the King reminds us that Jesus is not only the head of the Church but also the King of Creation. As Paul
points out in Chapter 1 of Colossians, Jesus Christ is the firstborn of all creation and the
blueprint, as it were, of all created things: For in him were created all things in heaven
and on earth.
And so we come back to our role as heraldsand indeed reflectionsof the Great King. We announce
and praise the coming of the king of creation. And we do this along with all Gods creatures.
They, too, are heralds of the Great King as St. Francis himself indicates in his great Canticle
of the Creatures.
With Francis we sing:
All praise be yours, my Lord, through all that you have made: through
Sister Moon and Stars,
Brother Wind and Air,
Sister Water and Brother Fire.
our brother and sister creatures give glory to God and to the King of Creation, we join them in a
universal symphony of praise!
[Friar Jack has communicated some of the same themes expressed in
todays column in his childrens book, St. Francis in San Francisco. Its an imaginative
story expressing St. Francis great love and respect for creation and Gods coming among
us that first Christmasand a good gift idea.]
respond to Friar Jims What Is the Sacrament of Baptism?
Dear Friar Jim: Thanks, Friar Jim, for the excellent précis
on the Sacrament of Baptism. With the recent loss in our family of Hannah Nicole, a 22-day-old,
prematurely born, unbaptized beautiful little girl, your reminder of the Churchs teaching of the mercy
of God was very comforting. Also, although familiar with the concepts, I had not yet heard the terms
Baptism of Blood and Baptism of Desire. Wonderful handles with which we
can hold on to the Truth! They will help me dialogue with non-Catholics and non-Christians more effectively.
I pray you are blessed in your labors of love,
Dear Jon: Im glad you found this topic consoling. If we remember that God is
goodness, and St. Marks Gospel describes the children climbing all over Jesus, it is impossible to
think of any child not being with God for eternity. Friar Jim
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