Built to be Builders
So, here goes my first iSTAND blog. I'm excited to be part of this project. I can't claim to be an expert in any sense, but just a brother who is walking the journey of faith in Jesus.
I was having a think of what to write about for my first 'Man Enough' post because, you know, I want my first one to be a really good one so that our readers will like it... but not too good because I don't want to set the bar too high. Anyway, such thoughts come from a place of pride, wanting to look good in front of others. I wish I didn't think like that, but I'm human.
I'm travelling overseas at the moment on a flute study trip/pilgrimage/holiday (currently writing this on a plane). I was fortunate enough to have the chance to go to Assisi last week and just wanted to share some of my experience there.
When planning my travels through Italy, Assisi was on my list as a place I was keen to visit. St Francis of Assisi is an inspiring figure and a much loved saint in Italy. His father was a wealthy cloth merchant, but Francis, hearing the call of God, embraced a life of radical poverty and in doing so left a powerful legacy to the world.
I was able to visit and pray at the tomb of St Francis and other significant places from his life. One of these was the Chapel of San Damiano where before the Cross in prayer, Francis received the invitation from God, "Go and rebuild my church". At first, Francis took this literally and started to begin repairing the church building, but then he realised that God had a different kind of building in mind: a spiritual building that was to be a sign for the times.
In this year of Consecrated Life, Pope Francis said that consecrated people have a duty to 'wake up the world'. And I think still today, St Francis is waking us up; awakening us from our selfishness and materialism, awakening us to the poor in our midst.
Being in these holy places, beautiful in their simplicity, made the character of Francis somehow more real to me than before. The thought that I'm walking the ground he walked, beholding the view he saw, and breathing the air he breathed put me in touch with his humanity.
I don't know if this is just me, but I reckon that sometimes when we think of the great Saints of the Church, we revere them as holy 'super humans'. We view them with a certain distance because we think 'I'm not like that... I don't levitate'. We may tend to think that God threw in some extra holiness juice or something when he was making them but we didn't get any. And yet, as the Great John Paul II reminded the young people of the world, we are ALL called to be saints of the new millennium.
Being in Assisi invited me to reflect that Francis was a mortal man, like me. What makes him a saint is that he was a man who was open to God's grace working through him. He created a space in his mind and heart to listen to God, and when he heard God speaking, he responded with a YES.
In this way, we CAN all be saints. Because we don't become saints by our own merits, talents, skills or how devout we are. We are sanctified by being open to the free gift of God. It's a huge encouragement to know this and it's exciting to think about what our lives are capable of when we're open to God.
I want God to write a beautiful story with my life, because I am certain that what he has in mind for me is greater than anything I could imagine or plan on my own.
And I want to be a builder. I don't mean a brickie or labourer (I don't have the frame cut out for that kind of work!). I want to be a builder like Francis. A man who listened to the master architect and went to work, drawing people to join him in building God's Kingdom on earth. So let's get to work and start building, people!
Pax et Bonum