Last week I spoke about greed and why we must avoid it at all costs. Greed is a sin plain and simple and leads to much destruction as we have seen in these past weeks.Yesterday on the Western Church Calendar was the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi. I will admit that St. Francis is still to this day one of my favorite saints on either calendar. The fact that he is not listed among the saints on the Orthodox Calendar should not detract us from reading about his life and what he had to say and what he still has to say to us today. St. Francis has much to say to us especially in these days.I am sure we all know the story. Francis was born to a very wealthy family in Italy and was destined for greatness. At one point in his life he had what has been described as a mystical experience and heard the voice of God tell him to rebuild his church. Francis took this very literally and began to rebuild the church of San Damiano located just outside his village. Well his father was not happy about this at all. In the story we are told of Francis standing in the middle of the town with all the inhabitants of the town gathered around. Francis denounces his inheritance and literally strips himself bare and walks out of the town completely naked. In a very real sense he was now listed among the poor of the world for he had no worldly possession. Francis believed that owning possessions took our eyes off of God and His Son Jesus Christ as we would rely on those things for help and not God, who Francis believed, gave us all that we needed. But Francis took this one step further. Francis spoke of something called inner poverty and this is something that I eluded too last week. The emptying of ones self to make room of the mystery of the almighty. A joining together of our will with the will of the Father. A working together if you will. Jesus often speaks about rich people and at one point in his ministry tells his followers that it will be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven. So will Warren Buffet and Donald Trump be in heaven, I have no clue and it is not our place to judge. What Jesus is speaking of here is interior poverty and not exterior poverty.In Matthews Gospel Chapter five and verse 3 Jesus tells us during the Sermon on the Mount that “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Poor is not a negative in this sentence in fact it is the opposite it is a positive. Poor in spirit means both the materially poor but also the faithful among God’s people. The poor in spirit, the humbly, the lowly have the heart of the poor and their total dependence upon God. These are truly spiritually rich.
Let me ask you this question. If you woke in the middle on the night and your house was on fire what would you take with you? Pictures, money, checkbook, insurance policy, Icons, Bible? Think about the treasures we have stored up and ask ourselves if we can do without them. Do we rely more on the things of this world for our happiness? How much time do we spend worrying about the future and our financial well being versus the amount of time we spend in prayer giving all that we have, body and soul, to God? If we were to loose everything tomorrow what would happen?Back to St. Francis for a minute. Francis believed that if we had possessions then we would need weapons to guard them. We would need to protect the things of our life from someone stealing them. How are we with guarding the things of our souls? What weapons do we have to guard against the theft of our souls, of our spirits, of our very lives, not our physical lives, but our spiritual lives?
I am not a gun owner, most of you I am sure are glad to hear that. I believe that in this day and age guns are a necessary evil in our society. But gun owners spend many hours polishing their guns and making sure they work. They oil all of the moving parts and make sure that the bullets are clean and that they know where the gun is so at a moments notice they can run and get it to protect themselves, their families and their stuff. I wonder how much time we spend polishing the weapons of our spirituality? How much time do we spend in prayer, with the word, or just meditation? Most of you work 40 hours plus a week to put food on your table and clothes on your back, and thank God a little something in the tray when it is passed. 40 hours plus a week building up your kingdom here on earth. How much time do we spend building up our kingdom in heaven?
We are now less than a month away from the presidential election. Many of you, me included, spend hours watching the TV news, reading the blogs, and thinking about the next president of the United States. Many of us can name the candidates, their running mates, and where they stand on certain issues. How much time do we spend thinking about the King of Kings and Lord of Lords? How much time do we spend reading his word and thinking about where he stands on the issues of the day? Does what the church teaches on issues influence your vote at all or just slightly? Do we even know what the church thinks and teaches about the issues of the day, do we even care?
Inner poverty is a change, we have heard a lot about change these last few months. Inner poverty is a new way to think about what we do and how we do it. Inner poverty is a surrendering of that part of our life that should belong to Jesus. It is turning over that part of ourselves to the other that I spoke about last week. It is a change in how we do things and how we act and how we live our very lives. It is a turning toward God and away from the world.
We soon will be entering the liturgical season of Advent. Advent is a time of preparation. A preparation for the birth of the Christ Child. It is also a time of preparation of our selves for the coming of the Christ Child. A time for us to think about what we have done and what we have left undone during the past year. Let us spend those days in true reflection of what it means to be a follower of Jesus and what Jesus is asking us, as his followers, to do with our lives. Let us spend a little more time with Jesus and a little less time worrying about our stuff.
Stand in the square. Strip yourself naked. And turn it all over to Jesus.