On this Family Day Long-Weekend I am reminded of the words of Saint Francis of Assisi. “They will be called children of the heavenly Father, Whose works they do. And they are spouses, brothers, sisters and mothers of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are spouses when the faithful soul is united by the Holy Spirit to our Lord Jesus Christ. We are brothers and sisters, moreover, when we do the will of his Father Who is in heaven; mothers when we carry Him in our heart and body through love and a pure and sincere conscience; and give Him birth through a holy activity, which must shine before others by example.” – Later Admonition and Exhortation to the Brothers and Sisters of Penance
This is one of my most favorite quotes from Francis. It challenges me to look at my life and to examine how I am sibling, mother and spouse with the Triune God. It challenges me to consider universal fraternity – where everyone and everything is my sibling. This challenge is not always easy to ponder and consider. It challenges me as consider the words of Christ, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers? Who ever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12.48-50) I’m sure this is from where St. Francis was driving the above mentioned reflections on relationships. Familial relationships call us to be life-giving, to be present, and then to engage and share the God-given gifts that our ours to develop and grow in so that our light may shine.
Over the past few weeks I have been challenged on how I am brother. Am present to others? Am I supporting others to share their gifts and abilities? Am I doing my will or the will of my Father in heaven? Living a fraternal life has its ups and downs, its for better and for worse, its joys and sorrows. It is considering my role as a Franciscan Brother, as a sibling, a son, an uncle and a friend that awakened me to God’s goodness and I strive to God’s goodness in all I encounter for we are all family.
I recently heard a discussion about two people seeking out different families over this Family Day Long Weekend. People who become family for each other, people who create family where they are and in the communities in which they live. I was again reminded of St. Francis and how he would be pleased to hear of the school staff who support each other, the small community that comes together over lasagna and skating lessons, the veteran who supports his fellow veterans, the cultural groups that welcome friends and neighbours into their community centers to celebrate our commonality, the community who sends notes of love to victims of racism, the fraternity of religious who open their doors to the family of street, the charities who open their doors to give a room for those who walk the cold winter hallways seeking shelter and family, the family who delivers meals on wheels and becomes family to shut-ins and the elderly. It is here in these situations that I truly see discipleship and come to understand the gift of family – of being spouse, sibling and mother of Christ. It is in considering these scenarios and many others that I have to ask myself “how I am family where I am and for others?”
As we consider our families over this weekend; whether good or painful memories emerge, may we remember that we are called to the bigger family where we are all united as siblings. No matter who we are, the color of our skin, the work we do, the pain we carry, where we are from or whom we love we are family – we are the body of Christ. When we finally see the gift of being the body of Christ we come together so our individual lights may shine and together we become one brilliant light – with us as sibling and Christ too!
God of Life,
We give you thanks for the gift of family
whomever that maybe for us.
We strive to ignite our light which we hold within
so that we may be the best spouses, siblings and parents
that we were designed to be.
Fill us with your grace and mercy so that we may truly shine
and bring light to the darkness of our world.
We pray for those who do not know family or struggle to be family.
Be present in those homes and communities
easing pain, healing hurts, building bridges of hope
and showing us the way to create family there.
You our God, our Divine Parent,
we desire your love each day
and freely you share it
May our hearts and eyes be open
to where and in whom we encounter this gift
today, tomorrow and always,
for we know that always is how you are with us
because of Jesus our Lord through the gift of Holy Spirit.