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How saints permanently change the world

Saint Clare of Assisi
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This Sunday we can consider what discipleship looks like, and what we need to do in our own lives.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Do not be afraid any longer, little flock,
for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.
Sell your belongings and give alms.
Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out,
an inexhaustible treasure in heaven
that no thief can reach nor moth destroy.
For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” —Luke 13:23-24

As I was reflecting on this Sunday’s Readings, I couldn’t help but be struck by the memorials and commemorations of the saints leading up to this Sunday’s liturgy.

On August 7, we celebrated pope and martyr St. Sixtus II, as well as the founder and reformer St. Cajetan.

On August 8, we honored the memory of St. Dominic, the tireless evangelist and founder of the Order of Preachers (the Dominicans).

On August 9, we remembered a saint and martyr of the modern era, Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), whose writings contributed to the philosophical movements of the 20th century and whose life was cut short as she was horrifically murdered by the Nazis because of her Jewish ancestry.

August 10 finds us celebrating the feast of the deacon and martyr St. Lawrence, who has long been honored as a special friend and protector of the poor.

As we observe the 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time, we also find ourselves remembering St. Clare of Assisi. Each, in their own way, embodies the values that are at the heart of this Sunday’s Gospel. 

In a sense, the passages from Luke’s Gospel that we are hearing in these weeks could be folded into the great Wisdom tradition of the Old Testament. We are no longer hearing stories of Jesus’ signs and wonders, those moments of revelation that helped those first followers to understand who he is. Rather, now, we are being invited to reflect on how we are to follow this Master Teacher in whom we have come to believe.

These gospel passages invite us to reflect on prayer, works of charity, and justice, and the attitudes that should be the hallmark of followers of Jesus. Like the earlier Wisdom teachings, these readings are leading us to consider the demands and consequences of an enacted faith.

Because, at the end of the day, our call to discipleship requires more than simply learning the stories of Jesus and being able to parrot back his teachings. Rather, Divine Wisdom calls us to live what we profess, guided by our faith convictions. 

As we consider the implications of this Wisdom perspective and the demands of discipleship, the stories of the saints help us to understand, in a practical way, what discipleship can and should look like. Their stories break open for us the values presented in the Scriptures and can not only inspire us to call to mind the wonders God has done in guiding salvation history (see the Second Reading), but can also call us to a deeper sense of commitment.

Simply taking the example of St. Clare of Assisi, whose memorial coincides with the 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time, we find a woman of means and influence setting aside comforts, the preferences and plans of her family, and her own vision for her life to follow the example of the ragged, itinerant Francis, who welcomed Clare into the community of the “Lesser Brothers” before establishing her and other like-minded women at the small chapel of San Damiano. Clare came to understand that the only things that are truly of lasting value are the things of God and she courageously and faithfully allowed those beliefs to chart a new course for her life.

As Pope Benedict XVI observed

Those who change the world for the better are holy, they transform it permanently, instilling in it the energies that only love inspired by the Gospel can elicit. The Saints are humanity’s great benefactors!

Ultimately, the Gospel for this Sunday is an invitation for us to reflect on how deeply and truly we are living the faith we profess. To aid us in this, we can look to the stories of the saints to help us along our path, recognizing that the witness of our lives also serves to inspire and enlighten others, just as the we are inspired and enlightened by the “great cloud of witnesses” who continue to journey with us. 

What are the things that you treasure or cling to?

How is God calling you to let go of these, for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven and for the benefit of those who are poor, sick, grieving, and on the margins?    

Who are the saints who inspire you in your journey of faith? What is it about their lives and witness that touches your heart? 

Read more: Need a saint you can relate to? Here’s one way you might find one

Words of Wisdom: “Happy indeed is she who is granted a place at the divine banquet, for she may cling with her inmost heart to him whose beauty eternally awes the blessed hosts of heaven; to him whose love inspires love, whose contemplation refreshes, whose generosity satisfies, whose gentleness delights, whose memory shines sweetly as the dawn; to him whose fragrance revives the dead, and whose glorious vision will bless all the citizens of that heavenly Jerusalem. For his is the splendor of eternal glory, the brightness of eternal light, and the mirror without cloud.”—St. Clare of Assisi

Read more: Traveling back in time to meet St. Clare: A Franciscan brings her to life for today’s readers

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