Chapter Talk – Fr. Michael Casagram – An Invitation to New Life – 9/11/22

Chapter Talk – Fr. Michael Casagram – An Invitation to New Life – 9/11/22

+AN INVITATION TO NEW LIFE             Chapter Talk 11 Sep. 2022

This morning I thought to share a few reflections on the homily given by Dom Bernardus at the opening Mass of the G. C. and the meaning of the Eucharist of St Francis of Assisi. The opening Mass took place at the basilica of Portiuncula. According to Legend St Benedict had obtained ownership of this small chapel that now stands in the middle of a huge basilica. This small chapel later became the center of worship for the early followers of St Francis.

There seems to me a close link between the spirituality of St Benedict and that of St Francis. A recent article in the St Anthony Messenger brought this home to me when it tells us of how “St Francis encouraged all of us to see the humble goodness of God in the Eucharist, and to ‘pour out our hearts’ to him in gratitude.” The article written by a Franciscan friar John Barker goes on to say:

“In Jesus Christ, Francis saw the incredible generosity of a God who assumed our poor, fragile human nature out of love for us and all creation. It was this good God, who did not insist on his divine prerogatives, but readily ‘emptied himself’ to join us in our poverty, who captured Francis’ heart.”

          St Francis found himself overwhelmed by the loving humility of God. It is just this loving humility of God that is at the heart of the Rule of St Benedict as presented especially in chapter seven of the Rule. As St Benedict tells us at the end of this chapter, “after ascending all these steps of humility, the monk will quickly arrive at that perfect love of God which casts out fear.”

          The article in the St Anthony’s Messenger by a John Barker, goes on to say:

           “The whole reason that Jesus humbly presents himself in the Eucharist is to enable us not only to be reconciled to God, but also to continue to become more and more like him. One cannot receive the divine gift, so lovingly offered, without understanding why  Jesus offers himself in the first place—and striving to live accordingly.”

          Further along in the article is a paragraph that I think to be deserving of careful reflection and sums up what St Francis experienced before the Blessed Sacrament.

          “O subline humility! And what humble awesomeness! The Eucharist captures for Francis the central and most beautiful paradox about the character of God revealed in Christ. The all-powerful, magnificent, all sufficient, and splendid creator of the universe loves his creation so much that he does not hesitate to lower himself—even coming as a piece of bread to save us. This is what makes God so lovable and so supremely good, so magnificent and splendid for Francis. First the Incarnation and now the Eucharist reminds us constantly that the goodness, love, and mercy of God lead God in Jesus to ‘give Himself totally’ to us. Out of love for us, God holds nothing back, and this is the humility and the poverty of God. Only the most exalted and all-powerful God could be this free, this good.”

It is this being touched by the tender mercy and love of God, not only for the human family but for each one of us, that is transformative in our lives. It is this that makes us truly free, able to become the persons we are destined to be. I’m reminded of the countless books that have been written about what goes on in early family life and how formative this has been for each of us. The love that is experienced in these early years makes us the persons we become.

The Eucharist or as St Francis referred to call it, “the Body and Blood of the Lord” is just this kind of formative influence in our Christian lives. It is in being touched by God’s own love for us that changes the direction of our lives, changes us into authentic followers of his beloved Son.

To believe in the Eucharist is far more than holding a clear doctrinal formula as important as this may be, it is to be an encounter with the living God, being touched by divine tenderness so as to become living images of the Body and Blood of Christ we receive. Let me end with a final quote from the article:

“God gives us everything we need to attain, all of God’s gracious promises. Especially, he gives us himself in the body and blood of his son. In the words of St. Francis, ‘O how holy and how loving, gratifying, humbling, peace-giving, sweet, worthy of love, and above all things, desirable: to have such a Brother and such a Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,’ who offered himself and still offers himself for us. The saint’s words prompt us to consider how we ought to respond to such a great gift, which is, after all, offered to us out of the infinite goodness of God’s humble heart.”