Thursday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Lectionary: 386

As you go, make this proclamation: 'The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.' Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, drive out demons. Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give. Do not take gold or silver or copper for your belts; no sack for the journey, or a second tunic, or sandals, or walking stick.

The Franciscan Blessed John Duns Scotus, (1266-1308 AD) reflected daily on the life of Saint Francis and lived closely his principle of poverty. Where Francis saw the Glory of God from his practice of owning nothing, Scotus saw the "contingency" of everything. Nothing is really necessary except God. Everything else is contingent. Therein lies our freedom.

That is, it doesn't have to be and might not have been. Had not my parents met in the late summer of 1946; had not my grandfather arranged their first date; had the young man, after a long day at work, decided not to visit a woman he'd never met; had she decided she would not wait more than two hours for her overdue blind date, I would not be here. And that's four of the "contingencies" out of an infinite number of alternate possibilities, that led to my actual being here. 

That I am here and  you are here, given their unlikeliness, are cause for celebration! And certainly, gratitude! 

Jesus reminds us, "Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give." Americans tabulate the monetary worth of everything. What they cannot monetize they regard as worthless. Some ecologists have challenged such thinking by asking, "How much are we willing to pay for the air we breathe?" 

We forget that beneath all those things we treasure is the generosity of God and beneath that is nothing at all! Nothing we treasure has to exist; it is all gift. Understanding that induces freedom! Because it was given freely and we received it with equal freedom, we can give it. 

Saint Francis somehow, miraculously, saw that clearly. It was shown to him. Surviving a year in a foreign dungeon may have helped; surviving the battle that led to his imprisonment ("I might have been killed!") may also have revealed his radical contingency more clearly. During his first pilgrimage to Rome, as a solitary hermit, he traded clothes with a beggar and discovered he could live in the street with the other beggars and nothing really bad happened. That experiment was a dry run that led to his escape from wealth, security and comfort. 

Not everyone is called to live as Francis lived but we are challenged by Jesus' command to "give freely as you have received." Remembering the abyss of nothingness which yawns beneath God's generosity frees us from possessions and obsessions. 

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.