|Memorial of St. Francis de Sales,
bishop and doctor
1 Samuel 18:6-9; 19:1-7
Psalm 56:2-3, 9-10, 10-12, 13-14
Two recurring themes guide my reflection for today. They are humility and loving acceptance. These are not my strong points, but they return in both the readings and the life of Francis de Sales, whose feast is celebrated.
In the reading from Samuel, Saul must accept his context. Although he is king, he recognizes there is another with gifts. The psalmist accepts his lot with trust in the Lord. In Mark, Jesus chooses to step back from the manifestations of his divinity. Francis de Sales lives out his role in the counter-reformation with gentleness. He passes up positions of honor.
Where do I fit in? I am a grumpy old man. I like to say what I think. I often lack patience with my children and find a need to bring the world back into order time to time. I see the power of loving kindness, but it is not my first instinct.
I recently spent three weeks in a Swiss apartment that overlooked the Haute Savoy of France. From my window I could see the towns where Francis de Sales carried out his work responding to Calvin's successors with loving kindness. Looking out the window, I could trace international and cantonal boundaries that owed their location to religious differences. I found it interesting that in the days after September 11, the location of the ecumenical service in Geneva which focused on this event was held in the Cathedral of St. Peter, once the seat of the bishop of Geneva and later the church of John Calvin. This is a world very different from that of Francis de Sales, bishop of Geneva, living in exile in France.
In my reflections I look at how I respond. In dealing with my teenage boys, I must admit that trust in the Lord and loving acceptance is not my answer. I not only want determine my world, but theirs as well. I am not drawn to gentile humility I want to mold characters, and this often leads to confrontation. I also must admit that I am, in general, pleased with my efforts. These boys seem to embody the values I have been trying to instill. They occasionally express gratitude for bringing discipline and judge it to be valuable when they compare their situation with that of their friends.
What if Saul had brought David into line? What if the Psalmist had taken personal responsibility for his actions? What if Jesus had accepted his due? What Francis de Sales had aspired to become bishop of Paris? Perhaps the call is different for each of us and perhaps so is the response.
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