We Will Sing For Joy
As we know very well, St. Francis of Assisi found complete freedom and joy only when he gave up all his possessions. Clare of Assisi agreed. When this noble young fellow-townsman of St. Francis first heard Francis preach on the Gospel invitation “sell what we have and give to the poor,” she was fired with the same desire to put her life and her needs wholly in the hands of God. Why spend our lives trying to push a camel through the eye of a needle?
Francis assisted her in her decision and she became the foundress of the first convent of Franciscans of the Second Order, commonly called the “Poor Clares.” Her nuns could not go forth from the convent on apostolic missions as the Franciscan friars did. But they could practice within the convent walls the most drastic poverty.
Clare’s reward, like that of Francis, was a radiant sense of liberation. She emptied herself, and then asked God, as we do in today’s response, “Fill us with your love, O Lord, and we will sing for joy!” When she finally came to the end of her life of poverty, penance and prayer, Clare bore her last illness with sublime patience. One day she was heard to say to herself, “Go forth in peace, for you have followed the good road. Go forth without fear, for He that created you has sanctified you, has always protected you, and loves you like a mother.”
“Blessed be you, O God,” she exclaimed, “for having created me!”
God does not call all of us to the heroic poverty that St. Francis and St. Clare practiced. But even if we do become poor, whether through vow or through financial loss, there is one possession we can never be deprived of: the gift of being – and of being ourselves and nobody else. For that gift we can always sing for joy and gladness!
-Father Robert F. McNamara
Q393: The Gospel speaks of Selling My Possessions and Camels and Needles… how can I make this story (Mk 10:17-30) relevant to my own life?
One of the ways that St. Ignatius encourages us to grow in our spirituality is by having us enter into the Gospel story we are reading. Become any one of the characters, and try to hear Jesus’ message from that viewpoint. Let’s assume that you are not rich – that you are just an average middle-class Jane Doe or John Doe. Does that mean you are “home free” and can breathe a sigh of relief about parting with your own “things”? No.
Now I’m not asking you to “become the Camel,” but instead to focus on what that Camel means in your own life. So you’re not rich? Well, here’s the thing: you still have a “Camel” in your life, a barrier to the fullness of the spiritual life which awaits you. So what is your particular “Camel”? Even the apostles had a “camel,” such as pride (arguing about who was the greatest or jockeying for positions of honor in the kingdom they anticipated).
There are a lot of ways to find out what your own “camel” is. The easiest way is to ask your spouse! Another way might be to reflect on which item on your confession list gets repeated the most often (assuming you have conducted a thorough examination of conscience). But the way I like the most is to take the way of St. Ignatius. First ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten you to recognize your “camel.” Then select a character in the Gospel story and “become” that person – perhaps the rich man, or one of the disciples, or one of the crowd hearing the story. Then slowly read and meditate on the words of Jesus. God will speak to your heart.
KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! If you need help in trying this kind of meditation, go to Creighton University’s “Online Retreat,” Week 14and follow the sound advice offered there. Meditation is a quest to understand what God is asking, and is a lifelong process (CCC #2705-8).
If Today You Hear His Voice
Today’s readings reduce much of the Scriptures to “the one thing necessary.” The rich young man asks Jesus what he must do to gain eternal life. Jesus tells him to keep the commandments. When the young man says, I have kept them all my life, Jesus tells him that he is lacking in one thing: “Go sell what you have and give to the poor. Our immediate response is that this is not possible. We know that the first Christians did not take this literally; they did not all go out and sell their possessions. In fact, Matthew’s Gospel qualifies the saying by having Jesus say, “If you would be perfect , go sell …”
What are we supposed to get out of this? Most of us are probably like the rich young man. We keep the commandments. We are not guilty of terribly bad actions but we may at times be very complacent. We may wonder if that is all we are supposed to do. At times like this we need to remember the words of Wisdom: “I pleaded and the spirit of wisdom came upon me and in her company all good things.” Jesus is the embodiment of God’s wisdom and he says to us, “One more thing you must do.” It may be that he is calling us to greater self giving. It may be something as simple as reconciling with a brother or sister, doing some volunteer work, being more patient with those who annoy us, more generous in sharing of our time and resources. In short, He says to us one more thing you must do; in short he, calls us to greater self giving.
Lord Jesus, you gave yourself completely on the cross for us. Give us the grace and strength to give more generously of ourselves for others.