Stripping Away Vanity
|Caravvagio's St. Francis of Assisi|
St. Francis of Assisi certainly knew about this. As a young man, when he had decided to follow Christ, he ran into the stern disapproval of his own father. Francis (never one to do things part-way) met with his father and the bishop. Francis renounced his claim to his father's money, and - in the public square - stripped off his fine clothes, declaring that they were no longer his. A tattered garment replaced the luxurious fabrics.
Like many of his time, Francis was afraid of lepers. Little was known of this dreaded disease, but those who contracted were destined for a life of poverty, outside of any town, village or city. Their only sustenance was gained by begging. In a moment of clarity, Francis saw Christ in a leper. He embraced the man. That gesture required Francis to strip away his prejudice, his fear, his lack of faith.
Francis also received the stigmata - the wounds of Christ. This is a great gift, but a heavy one. Anyone who bears the stigmata is joined with Christ in pain and suffering. It means one's own body is stripped away, and now belongs to Christ. Francis knew that, for him, the only way to holiness was by leaving himself - all of himself - behind, and to follow Christ.
Author Ilia Delio, speaking of Francis:
The person who desires friendship with God must strive to be free from all attachments and from all commitments that are exclusively human or in relation to earthly realities. This does not mean that we are to give up our friends or sacrifice our desire for a better job or position. Rather, we may understand attachment here as possessiveness. We are called to be dispossessed of earthly things so as to possess God. To possess means to “cling to,” to hold on to something so tightly that other possibilities are “squeezed out.” Each of us is called to be poor, to empty ourselves of all that we cling to so that we may receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.Thus, Dear Husband and I have spent the past month or so stripping away. We had to move from our rather large house of 19 years to a 2 bedroom apartment. It was not our choice. For whatever reason, God called us to this. So we stripped away. And stripped some more.
Now that we are in our new home, we may have to strip away even more. (Not a lot of closet space. And a bathroom that is hardly big enough to change your mind in.)
Yet we know that all this is good. God is calling us to be less attached. Our possessions cannot make decisions for us - that is a crazy way to live. Instead (and Francis knew this!) we must strip away all that is not God so that God can direct our lives. If we allow our "stuff" to direct us, we become of this world, not of Christ. The only possession we can truly keep is the cross we choose to pick up and follow Him.
It's not fun. It's not easy. But knowing that God directs us, that we are truly trying to hear His voice over any stuff we may have, brings peace.
Now, if I could just find my blowdryer....