Francis of Assisi (1181-1226)

Francis conversion from the Catholic Encyclopedia is italics, and my comments in bold:

Francis’ conversion did not happen over night. There is no witness in the writings of the apostolos to a gradual conversion. Paul’s conversion which is a pattern to us happened in a moment, the moment that God gave grace to him to accept the one true gospel. Does this mean there are not events that happen in the life of man that is God at work prior to the moment of conversion? No! Paul was on the road to Damascus to find, apprehend and bring Christians bound to Yerushalem according to God’s will. God is in control of all things. God purposed that Paul be converted on a road. But can we say Paul’s conversion was gradual? No! There were events  that occurred up to his conversion by the purpose of God, but his conversion was in a moment. God had waited for him for twenty-five years and now it was Francis’ turn to wait. No, God does not wait for no one. All things are according to His purpose. Francis started to spend more time in prayer. He went off to a cave and wept for his sins. Sometimes God’s grace overwhelmed him with joy. Grace is not a switch that is turned off and on. Grace is either given by God or not. These words are most certainly written by someone who does not understand the true grace of God and His one true gospel. But life couldn’t just stop for God. There was a business to run, customers to wait on. We are not in control of God. God is in control of all things.

One day while riding through the countryside, Francis, the man who loved beauty, who was so picky about food, who hated deformity, came face to face with a leper. Repelled by the appearance and the smell of the leper, Francis nevertheless jumped down from his horse and kissed the hand of the leper. When his kiss of peace was returned, Francis was filled with joy. As he rode off, he turned around for a last wave, and saw that the leper had disappeared. He always looked upon it as a test from God…that he had passed. I do not know, beloved, what this means. I see no gospel declared. There is no declaration of the one true gospel and the grace to accept it. Again as in many testimonies written down through the ages there is a lack of  understanding of conversion either by the writer and/or the one said to be converted.

His search for conversion led him to the ancient church at San Damiano. While he was praying there, he heard Christ  on the crucifix speak to him, “Francis, repair my church.” Francis assumed this meant church with a small c — the crumbling building he was in. Acting again in his impetuous way, he took fabric from his father’s shop and sold it to get money to repair the church. His father saw this as an act of theft — and put together with Francis’ cowardice, waste of money, and his growing disinterest in money made Francis seem more like a madman than his son. Pietro dragged Francis before the bishop and in front of the whole town demanded that Francis return the money and renounce all rights as his heir. Peter was given a vision of animals, clean and unclean let down in a sheet. But Peter was converted at the time, grace given and he was filled with the Spirit. The vision was for something he did not understand as a child of grace. Did Peter lack such spiritual insight that after the vision he went to see clean and unclean animals? No! He had spiritual understanding and went and preached the gospel as commanded by God to the Gentiles. Thomas on the other hand greatly ignorant of the purpose of God tried to build up a physical chruch building. After grace is first given we have understanding that only comes from God, but we are also ignorant.

The bishop was very kind to Francis; he told him to return the money and said God  would provide. That was all Francis needed to hear. He not only gave back the money but stripped off all his clothes — the clothes his father had given him — until he was wearing only a hair shirt. In front of the crowd that had gathered he said, “Pietro Bernardone is no longer my father. From now on I can say with complete freedom, ‘Our Father who art in heaven.'” Wearing nothing but castoff rags, he went off into the freezing woods — singing. And when robbers beat him later and took his clothes, he climbed out of the ditch and went off singing again. From then on Francis had nothing…and everything.

Francis went back to what he considered God’s call. He begged for stones and rebuilt the San Damiano church with his own hands, not realizing that it was the Church with a capital C that God wanted repaired. Scandal and avarice were working on the Church from the inside while outside heresies flourished by appealing to those longing for something different or adventurous.

Soon Francis started to preach. (He was never a priest, though he was later ordained a deacon under his protest.) Francis was not a reformer; he preached about returning to God and obedience to the Church. The one true gsopel is the power of God unto salvation. Perhaps the writers words have distorted what happened many centuries ago, I do not know. Francis must have known about the decay in the Church, but he always showed the Church and its people his utmost respect. When someone told him of a priest living openly with a woman  and asked him if that meant the Mass was polluted, Francis went to the priest, knelt before him, and kissed his hands — because those hands had held God. No, beloved, the hands of a priest do not hold God. For just as buildings do not contain God, most assuredly unleavened bread does not contain God. Even long ago we already see the emphasis removed from the one true gospel, and placed on the Lord’s Supper. Do they not know that the Lord’s Supper is as often as you do this, and the preaching of the one true gospel is in season and out of season, at all times.

A statement that is credited to Francis is the following, “Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.” Francis heavily emphasized the works of the gospel, even to the point of works above the preaching of the one true gospel. The one true gospel is the power of God and works follow, if only the gospel is preached. If the gospel is preached there will be love. There will be persecution. There will be rejection. There will be hate without a cause. There will also be the love of the brethren. There are times when the gospel is preached and works “seem” as if they are not present. But I tell you, beloved, if the one true gospel is preached, there will be works. You might not think there are works, but God will does exploits. There will be the love of enemies. There will be the praying for of enemies. There will be a reasonable service, the fruit of lips, “Thanks, God for all you have done in Yeshua ha Mashiach. And if God continues to give grace (I say this so we will not be presumptuous) there will be more abundant works of love. Love when there be less love: this is more abundant love. Love when one is not pleased. For the heart of God, whose heart is always soft toward men, will be faithful toward men, even when He is not pleased. For he will not divorce men, no not Yisrael, for His heart is soft toward all men. The end of the Lord is the Lord is very pitiful and of tender mercies. His mercy endureth forever.

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