Francis of Assisi on Humility
Following the Gospel this Sunday in which we heard Jesus call his disciples out about what the Letter of James describes as “jealousy and selfish ambition” (3:16) in the second reading, I thought it might be good to look at Francis of Assisi’s parallel admonition. Remember that, while walking with the Lord, the disciples start quarreling about “who is greater.” Jesus tells them, in that now-classic expression of that authentic Christian stance of discipleship in the world: “If anyone wishes to be first, he [or she] shall be the last of all and the servant of all” (Mk 9:30-37). In a somewhat similar manner, Francis admonishes his brothers to live in a way that resembles Christ’s call to discipleship in the Gospel. Humility stands at the center of this way of being-in-the-world, wherein the women and men who look to Francis for spiritual and evangelical guidance are simply reminded that they should be willing to do what their brothers and sisters need them to do without “putting on airs” or dwelling in a sense of entitlement.
Whether lauded for success and good works or despised because of misunderstanding or tough-decision making, the true disciple should remain stalwart in holding onto that place in society and in the local community that is proper to a follower of Jesus; the place of least among the others or, as Francis would name his community, lesser brothers (and, as it were, lesser sisters).
At the core of Francis’s message is that who we are before God is really who and what we are: nothing more and nothing less! And we should never forget that.
Blessed is the servant who does not consider himself [or herself] any better when praised and exalted by people than when he [or she] is considered worthless, simple, and looked down upon, for what a person is before God, that he [or she] is and no more.
Woe to that religious who has been placed in a high position by others and who does not want to come down by his [or her] own will.
Blessed is that servant who is not placed in a high position by his [or her] own will and always desires to be under the feet of others (Admonition XIX).