Thursday, September 15, 2011
by Sister Laura Zelten
The Evangelical lifestyle is a way of life that Franciscans have embraced since the 13th century. This form of life is based on St. Francis of Assisi's desire to follow the Gospel way of life. Francis wanted to follow Jesus in a radical way, and he was able to so this because he first believed in God's goodness. It was a goodness that God shared with all of creation from its very beginning, and found its ultimate expression in the person of Jesus. As Francis read from Scripture:
- "In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth…And God saw that it was good." (Gen. 1:1, 25)
- "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…All things came into being through him, and without him, not one thing came into being…And the Word became flesh and lived among us…" (John 1: 1, 2, 14)
For Francis the Word became flesh because from the beginning God intended to give us Jesus who was, is, and always will be the Perfect Good. Francis focused his attention on the fact that God created the world and everything in it through the Word, Jesus Christ. Therefore, he considered all of creation as holy. Birds, trees, stars, water, herbs and everything in nature was an expression of God's goodness. We especially bore both God's likeness and goodness. Sin, on the other hand, was failure to see God's goodness in another person, creature, or object. Sin was also taking for oneself what belonged to God. That is why Francis showed reverence to all of creation and all of creation in turned inspired him to give praise to God.
"And after the Lord gave me brothers, no one showed me what I should do, but the Most High Himself revealed to me that I should live according to the form of the Holy Gospel." (The Testament of Francis, 14)
Francis wanted to follow the Gospel way of life by imitating Jesus. He and his followers did this in simplicity and joy. Their focus was on their relationship with Jesus and with one another. In the Franciscan way of life, relationship is central to everything they do. In the Franciscan community the common bond is relationship with Jesus and with each other including their relationship to creation. Because of this, Francis accepted neither the apostolic nor the monastic models of community that were operative in his time. In fact, Francis never asked that his followers do a particular ministry other than being good examples of living the Gospel way of life.
Today Franciscans all over the world continue to live the Evangelical lifestyle. In communion with God, each other and the world, they witness to God's goodness at work everywhere, just as Jesus did. They do this by living community, serving a ministry, and praying deeply. Franciscans are free to serve God's people wherever there is a need. As Franciscans they are called to be peacemakers and to work for justice.
The call to be Franciscan begins with a call to follow Jesus. From this relationship flows the experience of relating with others in community and of recognizing Christ in all relationships. Reverencing the Christ in one another is the nourishment that impels a Franciscan to go out into the world to enable all people to see that gift with them that is Jesus.