|Memorial of St. Francis of Assisi
Baruch 4:5-12, 27-29
Psalm 69:33-35, 36-37
“I have observed Satan fall like lightning from the sky.”
So says Jesus upon the return of the seventy-two from their mission to proclaim
that the kingdom of God is at hand. Demons have been subjected because
the disciples have preached and healed in the power of Jesus’ name.
The Catholic Study Bible note on Jesus’ dramatic observation explains that
“as the kingdom of God is gradually being established, evil in all its forms
is being defeated; the dominion of Satan over humanity is at an end.”
How can we possibly make sense of such a statement? Announcement of
Satan’s demise seems to have been a bit premature. Not a day goes by
that evil doesn’t claim the lives of tens of thousands of innocent children
from hunger, preventable diseases, and the violence of adults. Not a
day goes by that human dignity isn’t trampled in nearly every corner of the
globe. And sometimes right next door. Sometimes even in our own
Jesus could not have meant that all human suffering ended on that day when
the seventy-two returned victorious and rejoicing after one skirmish with
evil. He must have already foreseen that he would suffer and be killed,
and he later invites the disciples to shoulder their own crosses, their own
burdens and sufferings.
Indeed, in Luke, Jesus charges the disciples to pick up their crosses “every
day.” On the one hand, that qualification intensifies the charge.
No days off! On the other, it suggests that not every day is a day of
crucifixion. We pick up our crosses, but live to carry them another
day. Everyday faithfulness, and not only the ultimacy of martyrdom,
has become the “normal” expectation for the followers of Jesus.
Every time a child dies, Satan is victorious. Every time a child is
cared for, loved, nurtured, protected, advocated for, and flourishes, Satan
falls like lightning from the sky. Every time compassion, mercy, justice,
peace are enacted, over the kitchen table or in international relations, Satan
staggers and Jesus rejoices.
Every day the kingdom of God is at hand and is being established, even as
we also have to acknowledge how far we are from its fulfillment in God’s mysterious
time. Every moment grace is extended and someone or some community
responds. But not all see or hear. Only the “childlike.”
Only those who give their hearts to hope. Only those, like St. Francis,
whom we memorialize today, who so identify with Christ and Christ’s mission
that they do not count the cost, and even welcome it.
Perhaps the challenge for us normal folks, is to integrate a childlike hope
with an adult realism and commitment. Surely we will discover that there
is both something of the cross and something of joy, a glimpse of the kingdom,
in that everyday faithfulness.