Before they ask me, I am already willing to do it. This is how St. Francis of Assisi described his approach to obedience. Before they ask me, l am already willing to do it also summarizes the Little Poor Man's approach to the exercise of all the virtues. Whenever an opportunity arose to resemble Christ more closely, Francis was always willing and ready. Before they ask me, I am already willing to do it — this is the key to Franciscan sanctity.
There is a joy which springs from meeting a willing person, someone ready to give, to assist, or to accompany. That is what people experienced when they encountered St. Francis. The WILLINGNESS which he cultivated readied him for the evangelical adventure of daily life with all its challenges, problems, opportunities and surprises. It enabled Francis to break down barriers and build bridges between people. It brought Gospel freshness to very ordinary situations and kept him always on the lookout for ways to put God's love into action and bring God's love into the lives of those he met.
The dictionary definition of WILLINGNESS offers a surprisingly accurate sketch of the Seraphic Patriarch: having a mind favorably disposed; not adverse; desirous; ready; doing without reluctance, voluntarily, cheerfully. It likewise offers a good examination of conscience as to how fully we are cultivating a spirit of WILLINGNESS, a virtue which helps build strong families and united communities. When it springs from willing minds and willing hearts, WILLINGNESS enables us not only to accept suffering but also to go forward carrying the Cross with a ready spirit.
To have a willing spirit, one needs to have a loving heart, a heart filled, first of all, with love for our Lord. Increased love makes WILLINGNESS increase. And when that happens, not only are we willing, we are ready for what God has in store for us in this moment, at this hour, on this day, in this life on earth. Once St. Thomas Aquinas' sister asked him what she needed to do to become a saint. He replied simply: Will it! Like St. Francis, St. Thomas had learned the enduring lesson which WILLINGNESS teaches: open your heart to God's will and God's ways... and the Lord will do the rest!