His merit is not what you might think: Allowing oneself to be loved
is the most difficult thing in life.
Today’s readings can be found here. Read Fr. Epicoco’s brief reflections on the daily Mass readings, Monday through Saturday, here. For Sunday Mass reading commentary from Fr. Rytel-Andrianik, see here.
The fascination that St. Francis continues to exert on many people could mislead us. For example, we might convince ourselves that his greatness resides in the heroism of radicality, poverty, unadulterated witness to the life of the Gospel, and that endless series of anecdotes about his life that his contemporaries have left us. Also, we could almost convince ourselves that his sanctity lies in that strangeness that made so many people – the great, the well-meaning, and even his own family – so uncomfortable.
But the secret of St. Francis is neither in his strength nor in his strangeness, but in the love with which Christ won him over. For we must never forget that the initiative is never ours but always from Jesus: “No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.”
So, what merit does St. Francis have if he basically just happened to have the grace of being loved to the point of knowing the Father’s love? His merit is in allowing himself to be loved.
This is the most difficult thing in life. It’s all too easy to experience poverty, sacrifice, and hard work, but the hardest thing in life is to let oneself be loved without putting any obstacle in the way of this love. This is the definition of humility. We are humble (childlike) when we let ourselves be loved, and feel strong only and exclusively by relying on this love. The greatness of Francis of Assisi is all found here. Imitating him does not necessarily mean doing the things he did, but doing things the way he did.
Father Luigi Maria Epicoco is a priest of the Aquila Diocese and teaches Philosophy at the Pontifical Lateran University and at the ISSR ‘Fides et ratio,’ Aquila. He dedicates himself to preaching, especially for the formation of laity and religious, giving conferences, retreats and days of recollection. He has authored numerous books and articles. Since 2021, he has served as the Ecclesiastical Assistant in the Vatican Dicastery for Communication and columnist for the Vatican’s daily newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.