The Excelling Love

CHRIST - THE EXEMPLAR OF VIRTUE

 

Part 24

The proverbial directive, X marks the spot, has led generations of treasure hunters to their desired goal. For the early Christians, X also marked the "spot" of their encounter with the world's true Treasure Jesus Christ. Most of those early believers had at least a rudimentary knowledge of Greek, and X was the first letter of the Greek word for Christ. Wherever this X appeared in Christian art, writing, and even graffiti the faithful knew that it symbolized the treasure of excelling Love which is Christ the Lord.


X marked the spot of Francis of Assisi's encounter with excelling Love. Praying before the crucifix in the dim and dusty church of San Damiano, the merchant's son was granted a life-changing experience of Christ. He heard the voice of the Crucified bidding him to Go, repair My house. But Francis also perceived in his heart the indescribable depths of the excelling Love of Jesus for him and for all of sinful humanity. From that time on, Francis was, so to speak, a "marked man," one whose "life map" bore the unmistakable mark of Christ, crucified and glorified.


I will show you the more excellent way, St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians. This is, of course, the way of charity, the way of excelling Love. It was the way that St. Francis followed with such ardent fidelity. But for Francis, the more excellent way was not enough. He was a man made for the best and the most. Francis' father trained him to be a most successful merchant. Francis dreamed of being the bravest knight. So it is not surprising that the Little Poor Man in his quest for Gospel perfection sought not simply the more excellent way but the MOST excellent way Christ who said, I am the Way.


I have given you an example
, our Lord said after He washed the feet of His apostles at the Last Supper. This was the key to how St. Francis read and lived the holy Gospel. Its pages were replete with the example Christ gave in both the sublime and the simple circumstances of life. As Jesus had done, so Francis would do that summarizes the Poor Man's mindset and "heart set." The entire alphabet of virtues flows from Christ and leads back to Christ. So anytime Francis was in doubt about what to do or how to act, he simply looked to Christ, the exemplar of all virtue, and walked (or, more often, ran) upon that most excellent way.


Does X mark the spot of our life encounter with Christ? Are we allowing His excelling Love to touch and transform us? Are we eager and willing to follow Him who is the most excellent way? Do we look to Jesus Christ as the exemplar of virtue as we seek to chart our life's course?


Unlike the maps of pirates and gold-seekers, the X that marks the spot of encounter with Christ, the excelling Love, never deceives or fades. In fact, the more we experience the great Treasure who is Christ, the more our lives are marked by His love, His virtue and His holiness. Then the beauty of what St. Augustine exclaimed, and St. Francis showed forth, is revealed in us: We have become Christ! And other treasure seekers are drawn to that mysterious mark of excelling Love and holy virtue.



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