St. 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
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.