Kathleen Giffin


Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time – August 28, 2016
Sirach 3.17-20, 28-29 | Psalm 90 | Hebrews 12.18-19, 22-24 | Luke 14.1, 7-14
August 15, 2016

A statue of St. Francis sits in my garden amidst the hostas and coral bells. He carries a Bible and a cross; his prayer beads are tied around his waist and a bird happily perches on his shoulder.

St. Francis seems the epitome of humility. He stripped himself naked of his possessions and inheritance in the marketplace; he looked to God to supply all of his needs, clinging only to the prayer that expressed his union with God.

He became so humble that the birds of the air found no threat in him; he became friends with all of creation by his lack of striving and his simplicity.

Sunday's readings speak of the necessity of humility. The writer of Sirach says only the one with humility will please God and give him glory. He warns that when the proud suffer great losses, they receive no healing; their soul has been taken over by that pride, and they are ruled by it even in suffering and defeat.

Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. - Luke 14.27

'Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.'

Luke 14.27

In a recent homily, Bishop Robert Barron referenced G.K. Chesterton's insight into humility. We, along with all of creation, were created from nothing, and it is to nothing that the material world returns.

When we apply that perspective to the accumulation of possessions as well as to status, honour, power and pleasure, it becomes easier to understand how St. Francis could have stripped himself of those things and chosen to live with simplicity.

The choice comes down to this: We can know and remember who we are or we can strive and grasp and attempt to build a structure that is doomed to fail. We can trust the truth that we are children of God, set into a world of God's making and destined for the union of love or we can try to find satisfaction, meaning and security in what we can create or achieve ourselves.

One road leads to the simplicity and unity evident in the life of St. Francis.

The other leads to the same tragic end as the man who built many new barns for his abundant possessions; all that was invested in the future for a happy and fulfilling life comes to nothing as he returns naked to the dust, his body and his possessions returning to the nothing from which they were made.

Why then do we become enamoured of our many possessions and achievements? This isn't something new. Scripture and the Church have always taught that it is in dying to self that we come to life, that it is the small and the simple who will be first in the kingdom of God.

Perhaps we are afraid to hope in something so wonderful; perhaps it is only the age-old sin of rebellion and pride. We do well to ponder the lives of those, like St. Francis, who walked the way of faith, showing us the path of humility.

(Kathleen Giffin kgif@telus.net)