A SERMON TO THE FRANCISCAN SECULAR ORDER SUPPORTERS
Friday, 25 September 1998 Canberra, ACT
I must begin this short homily expressing two strong feelings that are in my heart tonight. Firstly, surprise and admiration at the fact that here, in Canberra, there is a group of mature Christians like you are, devoted to St. Francis of Assisi.
Knowing that there is no organized presence of Franciscans in this city or their recognizable public activities, I didn't expect indeed to see rising the group like this one. It tells me a lot about the strength of St. Francis charisma. It is obviously still strong enough to move forward people in today's world and in our conditions of modern life.
Above all I should say that this union speaks so much about the power of the Holy Spirit who blows where he wants and pushes the believers to answer him in one way or another.
Now, here is my second strong feeling tonight: genuine joy. It is refreshing, and encouraging indeed, to witness an event like this one - gathering of Christ's believers attracted by the example of Poor Man from Assisi. Therefore I welcome all your efforts such as this one and I firmly encourage you to carry on.
We are nearing the 4th of October - the annual feast of our saint. I'd wish this union to be common expression of our renewed devotion to St. Francis. Let it be the sign of our readiness to follow as closely as we can the path toward Christ, traced by Francis. Particularly in this year 1998 which has been dedicated to the Holly Spirit as the preparatory year for the great Jubilee 2000.
Sadly, I don't know much about this particular group, so I still don't have an idea of your future plans or if there are any systematic plans at all. I 'd like to see this gathering as a personal response of each one of us:
Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening (I Sam 3,10).
Samuel knows neither who nor why the strange voice is addressing him. But he was ready to hear. Listening appears to be the first condition before one is ready to take his particular role. "Like gold in the furnace he tried them." (Wis 3,9) we read in the Book of Wisdom. Some sort of training is needed before full engagement in any field: in sport as well as in any kind of social or economic involvement and specially in spiritual or religious life. An athlete decided to achieve good results in sport will firstly spend years and years of hard practising. Christ our Lord itself spent 30 years in silence, working, praying, and studying before his first public appearance. St.Paul spent several years in Damascus after his conversion and before going to Jerusalem to meet other apostles. He was probably listening in his heart through prayer and study of Holy Scriptures which way to go further. St. Francis as well was questioning: Lord, what do you want me to do?
God doesn't leave any question without an answer, ever. So Samuel got an answer, and Paul, so did Francis and many others. So we can get it as well. How? - Thinking about Francis' example, - allowing the Holy Spirit to work inside us through experience of prayer and deeper reflection.
I'm sure we can find out what God wants us to do. That will tell us which way we should direct our individual or common efforts as followers or just friends of St. Francis. The response given to Francis was: Go and repair my Church which is crashing down.
That could be the answer for us here, understood however in our specific way and according to conditions that we live in. Help Christ make his Church stronger? The genuine Franciscan heritage at this point assumes: sincere sacramental life, trustworthy adhering to Church's dogmatic and moral teachings, support for its actions, participating in its functions and activities, loyalty to its pastors, promoting of its interest on parish, diocesan and universal levels, having understanding for its weaknesses. But above all true love for the Church which includes the attitude of total acceptance of Christ's Church no matter who is the bishop, who is the parish priest, which testimony of faith or life they give, what was the Sunday's sermon like etc.
The love for Church is very important, but only one aspect of St. Francis' actuality for us today. There are many, many more still to be reflected on, and welcomed into our daily life if we want to acknowledge ourselves his devotees, friends or followers.
Brothers, I have done what I was supposed to do. Let the Lord teach you and guide you in what you are going to do!
Fr. Vjeko Edward Tomic