The Franciscan Rule and the Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time


Cypess treesJesus began speaking in the synagogue, “Today this Writing is fulfilled in your hearing.” All spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They asked, “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?” He told them, “Surely you will quote me this proverb, ‘Physician, cure yourself,’ and say, ‘Do in your native place the things we heard were done in Capernaum.”

010One minute the crows sings his praises, and the next, they are a lynch mob. Do we do the same? Do we sing the praises of our favorite leader, so long as he tells us what we want to hear? When he compares us with the Pharisees, or other villains, do we change course and become a lynch mob? What of other prophets, speakers of the truth. When they tell us what we want to hear, do we follow them, to our own doom, if need be? This is something for each of us to reflect upon.

“Capernaum,” comes from the Greek. We have a similar word, “Cypress.” Also related in the Jewish concept of Yom Kippur, or the “Day of Atonement. “ Think of Kippur, “Atonement” in relation to the cypress trees. They provide shade, and from the point of view of someone looking down from on high, “God,” they hide, or cover the faults of the people who are below.

Be a RippleIsaiah 40 begins, “Comfort/Naum, comfort/Naum, my people, says your God. Speak to the heart of Jerusalem. Proclaim to her, her service has ended; her guilt is expiated. She has received from the hand of the NAME double for all her deviations.” The Synoptic Gospels use this passage to begin speaking of John the Baptist. Capernaum speaks of the comfort coming from atonement. The Israel Department of Tourism writes of the village, “The remains… were identified in 1838 by Eduard Robinson as Capernaum of the New Testament… The site was acquired by the Franciscan Fathers at the end of the 19th century, who conducted excavations.”

Our Secular Franciscan Rule states, “United by their vocation as brothers and sisters of penance, and motivated by the dynamic power of the gospel, let them conform their thoughts and deeds to those of Christ by means of that radical interior change which the gospel itself calls conversion. Human frailty makes it necessary that we carry out this conversion daily. On this road to renewal the sacrament of reconciliation is the privileged sign of the Father’s mercy and the source of grace. Giovanni Francesco di Bernardone. Chapter 2 Section 4 of the Secular Franciscan Rule.

habit“Do in your native place the things we things we heard were done in Capernaum.” This is impossible. The miracles require faith and faith causes interior conversion. The crowd wants radical change, but it does not want conversion. Our second reading for the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary time states, “At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror…. At present, I know partially; I shall know fully. Faith, hope, love remain; but the greatest of these is love.”

We see things partially. The Ethics of the Fathers states, “When sitting in judgment, do not act as a counselor-at-law. When the litigants stand before you, consider them both guilty; and when they leave your courtroom, having accepted the judgment, regard them as equally righteous.”

When people come before this judge, they see things partially, as in a mirror. When they leave court, we have a grander picture. We are reconciled to community, and are righteous.The purist proof that we are wrong is when we are so certain we are right that we do not have to listen to the other side. Being a Tzaddic, being a truly charitable person, means being willing to listen to the other side, asking, “Where does the other side gets its point of view? How can it be so certain of its right, it insists upon going to court? It is only when we are willing to undergo this radical transformation that we can become charitable, wise, as individuals, and as a nation.

It is all about love. Love, in Hebrew comes from a root. Ha Bah, sounds like the bleating of sheep and refers to the Lamb of God, who is to come. Ha Bah means to come. Abba, means father, the one who is to come. A Ha Bah is love.

ST. FrancisSt. Paul writes, “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous, It is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Love never fails.”

Jesus requires this radical transformation for healing. St. Francis requires this radical transformation on a daily basis for healing. Love means welcoming the other person into our hearts and into our lives, daily, early and often. Love means seeing each other as imperfect brothers and sisters, people we have to live with, in our home, whether our home be our dwelling, our city, our state, nation and world. Love means welcoming Muslim, Jew, atheist, or other religious, because they are fellow human beings. Love, God requires no less. “God is love,” I John 4:8.

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