My decision has been made, I am going to give up my job, my apartment and all security to rely wholly and completely on God’s providence and the generosity of others. Ha ha – April Fool’s! Or is it?
These actions would most definitely get someone declared foolish (and worse) today. So why would it be any different in St. Francis’ time? Francis renounced the wealth of his family and his future career to live in poverty and beg for food and clothing which he then gave to the poor. His family and community thought this was quite foolish indeed. There are many saints who have chosen to disregard the wealth of their family to live simply and poorly for Christ. We easily accept that – it was some holy person who lived long ago and well, they are a saint after all, why would they not do that?
But let us stop and really think about what they gave up. Francis “had it made” and probably wanted for nothing. Yet he gave that all up and begged for everything he needed. He only needed a small amount of food and the clothes on his back; he begged to provide for others. Can you imagine yourself doing that? I know I can’t. People would call me foolish just as they did Francis, especially my family.
Maybe God is not calling each of us to go to such extremes, especially when we have families of our own to provide for, but God does call us to Christian foolishness. We are all called to be saints, to be holy fools for Christ and for our neighbor. Paul, like Francis, took the Gospel to heart and even wrote to the Corinthians about himself and his companions being fools:
“Here we are, fools for the sake of Christ, while you are the learned men in Christ; we have no power, but you are influential; you are celebrities, we are nobodies. To this day, we go without food and drink and clothes; we are beaten and have no homes; we work for our living with our own hands. When we are cursed, we answer with a blessing; when we are hounded, we put up with it; we are insulted and we answer politely. We are treated as the offal of the world, still to this day, the scum of the earth.” (1 Cor 4:10-13, The Jerusalem Bible)
I am not a fool for Christ. At least not yet. But I have been pondering ways in which I am called to sacrifice what I want, whether material goods or personal behavior, and listen to how God is calling me to put others first. Pausing to reflect on some of Paul’s words, “When we are cursed, we answer with a blessing… we are insulted and we answer politely,” I realize how far I have yet to go to be that fool who actually lives out the Gospel of Christ. But it is something worth striving for. Imagine if every Christian truly were a fool for Christ: reducing our needs and consumption, acquiring for those who “have not” rather than for ourselves, and holding our tongues and choosing instead to offer blessing and kind words to those who yell at and insult us. That is a sacrifice and a heavy cross. But Jesus the Christ wants to help us each and every step of the way.
So, in these last couple weeks of Lent, join me in taking time to pause, open our hearts to the message of the Gospel and truly hear how God is calling each of us to be a fool like Francis and Paul, a fool for Christ.
– Adele DiNatale-Svetnicka