Monday, April 4, 2011

On the Mountain of God, the Lord will Provide

Greetings and Blessings of Peace,


     While I was a member of the Society of St Francis, Br Leo Anthony frequently would be heard to say this phrase at moments of uncertainty or need.  As a community we had few resources for our daily needs and there were times of scarcity when we brothers felt particularly vulnerable or even in fear.  It was always then that Leo would remind us of that fundamental phrase which lies at the very core of Franciscan spirituality.  The "mountain of God" is where the Lord is found and  there one finds manifested the purpose, plan or will of God.  For our peace, all we have to do is to stay within the will and purpose of God ... and then watch as God LOVINGLY provides our daily needs.  That is DEPENDENCE on God !
     In a similar manner, we hear a story about St Francis and the early brotherhood as told by Br. Thomas Celano.  This passage comes from his second history of St Francis (Remembrance of the Desire of the Soul) which was written in 1245 almost 20 years after Francis' death.  By then the brotherhood had grown  into thousands of men scattered throughout all of Europe.  A large portion of these men did not want to maintain the standard of "holy poverty" which had been a core value of Francis.  As Celano tells this story, you can hear him remind these later brothers that Francis considered a life of "holy poverty" as a life lived within the VULNERABILITY OF DEPENDENCE UPON GOD'S LOVING PROVISION of our needs.  The task for the brothers was to "stay at the table of the Lord" ( continue dependently serving God's purpose) and not to stray into attempts at economic security INDEPENDENT from God's will.
         " While Francis and the brothers were staying in a hermitage near Rieti, a doctor used to visit Francis every day to treat his eyes.  One day Francis said to his brothers, "Invite the doctor to stay and give him the best to eat."    One brother answered him, "Father Francis, we're embarrassed to say this, but we are ashamed to invite him because right now we are so poor."  But Francis answered, "Do you want me to tell you again to do it?"  And the doctor who was nearby said: "Dear brothers, I would consider it a treat to share in your poverty."
         "The brothers hurried to place the WHOLE contents of their storehouse on the table: a little bread, and not much wine, and to make the meal more lavish, the kitchen provided a few beans.         (Meanwhile the "table of the Lord" took pity on the table of his servants.)          A person came knocking at the door and the brother answered it immediately.  It was a woman offering to them a basket filled with beautiful bread, loaded with fish and crab cakes, and with honey and grapes heaped on top.  The table of the poor brothers rejoiced at this sight, the cheap food was put away and the delicacies were eaten immediately." 
          "The doctor heaved a sigh and spoke to them saying:  Neither you brothers nor we lay people realize the holiness of Francis" and his wise DEPENDENCE upon God for all of your needs."  They were all sufficiently filled because " the miracle filled them with EVEN MORE than the food."   (1)         They realized the spiritual message provided along with the bountiful food. 
      The core Franciscan value of "holy poverty" is not about having nothing!     Rather it is all about our lifestyle being COMPLETELY accessible and vulnerable to God's love, will and providing hand.  That is dependency upon God!  The one, who follows Christ Jesus in their actions and prayers, has the assurance that God will provide the needs of their daily life either by their own labor or the loving gifts of others.  There is peace without the disturbance of anxiety and fear.  But Br Leo's phrase ("on the mountain of God, the Lord will provide")  has two parts to it.  OUR part is to stay on that mountain of God..stay and live within God's purpose for our life.  The second part of Leo's phrase...well,  that's the Lord's part of the equation.  God will provide what you need today.  (Keep in mind that our "wants" are always larger than our daily needs and may actually be inferior or counter-productive to the "health-full" needs supplied to us by God.) 
       Franciscan "holy poverty" is really a life style of DEPENDENCE upon God to LEAD and to PROVIDE as we give our lives to Christ!   Read the pericope of Jesus' teaching found in Matthew 6:25-33.      Meditate on verse 33 and its meaning for your life today!     "But strive first for the Kingdom of God and its righteousness" (the sphere of your life where God's will is recognized and done) "and all of these things" (that you need) "will be given to you as well."   

        God's blessings and Peace to each of you               Donald Luke

(1) Francis of Assisi, the Founder.  Early Document series Vol. II    Eds. Armstrong, Hellmann and Short, New City Press (NYC)  2000   p. 276.

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