Francis of Assisi was a master of making room for the new and letting go of that which was tired or empty. Oh to have him here now – I suspect we might not like what he would suggest – Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio took the name Francis when he became Pope saying in the spirit of Francis “How I would like a church which is poor and for the poor.” The Church in Wales is, I fear, not there yet. We are still far too wedded to our wealth! 100 years ago the Church in Wales was poor. The greatest sadness of this centenary is the celebration of survival and the accumulation of wealth. Now that we are rich, we are always seeking more, where instead we needed to learn how to begin again. Francis’s first biographer said, “He was always new, always fresh, always beginning again.” Much of Francis’s genius was that he was ready for absolute newness from God, and therefore could also trust fresh and new attitudes in himself. His God was not tired, and so he was never tired. His God was not old, so Francis remained forever young. The way of St. Francis has been described as a gateway, a doorway, a window into the divine. (Jesus – ‘I am the gate’ John 10:7) The image above is one I return to often. It is a part of the ruined nunnery on the Isle of Iona. (It is mostly a garden now and will never be rebuilt. It reminds me that sometimes, some things come to an end and others need to find a new life.) Reflect on that image for a moment… You cannot see the whole picture though the window, just the wall, the tall arched opening, part of the hill beyond and an expanse of sky. I find myself wanting to see more of the picture on the other side of the wall but it reminds me that I can only see a part at a time. It is another reminder of my need for humility, to be patient, to wait and to watch. I wonder what you see in this image? Are you on the outside or the inside? Or does your mind even allow you the possibility of the question – Is this the outside of the building? When the walls that we build around our lives become overly familiar it can become difficult to discern the difference between without and within. In a quiet moment ask yourself where you find yourself in the image. Are you standing where the camera is? Are you leaning up against the wall? Are you sat on the ground with your back to the wall looking towards the photographer? Are you pulling yourself up the wall to get a better look through the window? Are you on the other side of the wall? Or are you on the hill in the distance with a totally different view point. And ask yourself the spiritual question what does this mean for you to be there? Re-ligio(n) is at it’s best a re-connecting. That is our task as it was the task of Jesus to re-connect those who had lost their way. I’m fascinated by the gospel reading, the parable of the ‘Wicked Tenants’ (Matt. 21:33-46) and the many interpreters who talk of it in terms of the Kingdom. Notice at the end of the parable when Jesus asks the question it is the people who suggest that the ‘wicked’ tenants should be killed and new tenants found. Jesus responds saying the rejected ones will become the corner stone. That’s hard. I see this parable as a test. The religious leaders failed in their task of re-connecting. We don’t need to be the same. The third thing to ask yourself about the image is where you would like to be. By the way, If that is on the other side of the wall, you will have to go there yourself and see what’s there.
Biographical information and comments on the life of Francis are from Fr. Richard Rohr’s daily meditations.