Francis of Assisi was a man whose faith was ALIVE. Everything spoke to him of God; everything led him to God. Where we would see two dead sticks lying on the path, Francis saw a potential fiddle that he could play as he sang of the Lord's love and mercy. Where we would see a flock of noisy, pesky birds, Francis saw a congregation ready to be encouraged to praise God.
To this man of living faith, a worm on the roadside reminded him of the verse of the psalm — but I am a worm, and no man — and summoned him to contemplate the Passion of Christ. In the disfigured face of a leper, Francis beheld a mirror of the Man of Sorrows, bruised for our offenses.
Faith enabled the Little Poor Man to read the signs of his time. There is no doubt it would enable him to read the signs of our times as well, and not only the great portents of sky and sea, war and politics. St. Francis would invite us to read with fresh eyes (for that is what faith in God gives us) even the signs that daily life sets before us.
Take, for example, the familiar road sign: YIELD right of way. Most motorists comprehend the logistical advantages as well as the safety value of that simple directive. Many understand that YIELD the right of way serves as an invitation to roadway courtesy and a summons to "be on the lookout" for others. But St. Francis would see more. Granted, road repair and highway congestion were minimal in the 13th century. Yet, as an experienced traveler on the highway to heaven, the Seraphic Father would point out that YIELDING the right of way to God is one of the keys to spiritual progress.
On the highway there is nothing weak or supine about YIELDING the right of way as the road narrows or an exit ramp looms. It is the same in the spiritual life. Too often we tend to "step on the gas" in order to reach my goal in my way. While the Holy Spirit does not issue spiritual speeding tickets, the lack of peace and the increase of frustration which result from our not YIELDING to God's directions give an accurate indication of the importance of YIELDING the right of way to Him in order to arrive where He wants us to be.
The life of the Poor Man of Assisi bears this out. Francis thought he was destined to be a great knight, riding through the countryside fighting great battles. It was only when he began YIELDING his life's right of way to the Lord that he learned God had a higher road for him to travel. When the Crucified told him to Go, repair My house, Francis thought he was supposed to repair the crumbling walls of San Damiano. It was only in YIELDING to the Spirit's guidance that he discovered God had a larger and more demanding reconstruction plan in mind. It was Francis' YIELDING to God's right of way which enabled him, even in the face of some friars' opposition, to see the Lord at work in the Church's confirmation of his Order's Gospel-based Rule.
YIELDING the right of way to God equipped St. Francis, and equips us, to respond right away to the needs of our neighbor. It deepens our awareness of being pilgrims together on the road to heaven. It also enables us to appreciate our Lord's saving Passion as the ultimate act of YIELDING to His Father's right of way, a YIELDING which opened the way to our eternal home.