Tuesday 4 October 2022 Feast St Francis of Assisi Week 27 in OT – OSU Novices Investiture
The only thing I can boast about is the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world. It does not matter if a person is circumcised or not; what matters is for him to become an altogether new creature. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, who form the Israel of God. I want no more trouble from anybody after this; the marks on my body are those of Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, my brothers. Amen.
Psalm 15 You are my inheritance, O Lord.
Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Today is the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, and a wonderful day to celebrate the entrance into the Novitiate. Francis is one of the most important patrons for religious life, as he gave himself so completely into the providence of God, trusting that God would provide everything for him, meaning he could embrace the poverty of life completely as God would always be there.
The Gospel reading echoes this in its invitation to, “Take up my yoke, and learn from me.” I didn’t grow up near any farms, but on the beachside, so I didn’t see any bullocks or cows yoked together pulling carts or ploughs. It wasn’t until I went to Fiji to live to see how a yoke connects one buffalo to another so they must work together to plough the earth. One not faster than the other, and the lead buffalo setting the pace for the others, like the master telling them how to follow, not by words but by example.
This is what it is for us to be yoked to Jesus. We walk together, but he leads. Not by forcing us or dragging or pushing us, but by his gentle and humble example. It is easy for us to want to follow a leader like that who is gentle, kind, tender (as Pope Francis says, ‘Non abbiate paura della tenerezza’ – ‘do not be afraid of tenderness’), and humble. No one wants to follow someone who is rough, harsh, forceful, and arrogant. We seek Jesus because he is tender and humble with us. This makes us want to choose him to become our Master, to lead us. We follow joyfully not because we are forced to.
With him nothing else matters. St. Paul says this to the Galatians in the first reading. For him nothing else matters, because everything else only finds its purpose in seeking Jesus Christ. The outer signs are only important in as much as they remind us of the inner heart that belongs to him. Our hearts are yoked to him.
Today we bless you medals and habits because when you wear them, they will remind you of something more important that clothing or signs. They will remind you of the habit you wear in your hearts, a habit of love, and a habit of trust, and of what is really meaningful.
In some places this ceremony is called an investiture – when postulants are vested for the Novitiate. The outer investiture is a representation of the inner investment that is made in your relationship with Jesus, that you love him and want him, but more importantly that he first loves you and wants you. Always remember this, he loved you first, he gives himself to you first, and all things make sense only in him.
May God bless you today and throughout this time of Novitiate. May this time give you the gift of a deep and real relationship with him. He is there with you always.