Francis to his friars: "See to it, my sons, that you never leave this place. If you are driven out by one door return by the other for this is truly a holy place and God's dwelling. Here when we were few the Most High increased our number; here he inflamed our wills with the fire of his love. He who prays here with devout heart will obtain his request, and he who offends here will be punished more severely. Therefore, my sons, consider the place of God's dwelling worthy of all honor and with all your hearts, with loud cries of joy and thanksgiving praise the Lord in this place." - from the writings of Friar Thomas of Celano
There was nothing easy about Francis life. He was constantly challenged by the temptations of the world, his brother friars and by Our Lord himself. Long hours in prayer contemplating the fate of his growing Order and the direction other brothers were taking it. Challenges, all of them. In todays Gospel, Jesus challenges his disciples to .."give them some food yourselves." And of course, for whatever reason, they can only shake their heads and say "Five loaves and two fish are all we have here." The Gospel doesn't say what kind of look was on Jesus' face when the disciples told him that. We can only use our imaginations and place ourselves there, maybe as Peter, holding the fish in his worn weathered hand, James with a basket with the bread, looking to Jesus for an answer. And Jesus, realizing that the time for them was not yet (but He knew!), shakes his head and smiles, saying "Bring them here to me." From here everything must have become, to the disciples, surreal; Jesus raises his eyes to heaven and says a blessing, breaks the loaves and gives them back to his disciples who run and give them to the crowd. and they keep running, bringing more and more bread and fish. Christ challenges them to have faith in him and when they don't he does the impossible, in truth saying, Look, see what can be done when you have faith in me! When you believe! The impossible becomes possible!
How often in my daily life am I presented with problems, when I'm challenged by this world, challenged by Our Lord. How often I turn away and try to fix problems on my own, that in itself is an old and tired life story of mine. Lately, though, I think I have slowed down some, and I've come to see that even with all the aggravations that work can bring, money issues and health problems of loved ones I can see great graces that God gives to me each and every day. Small things to you perhaps, but gifts beyond measure for me. And God has given me the grace to see these things instead of my being blind to them.
The other day I read an article taken from The Spirit of Medjugorje, Vol.15, May 2002. It was entitled "The Swap." The article explains that the swap is giving your troubles, worries, and intentions to our Heavenly Mother, while you pray for Her intentions-the conversion of unbelievers, peace in the world, priests, youth, healing of the sick, etc. The original message came to Ivan, one of the visionaries in Medjugorje during his prayer group, when Our Lady's message was "Dear Children, give Me all your worries, all your problems. Then your heart will be free to pray. And pray for My intentions." Last Friday my Dad went into the hospital for quadruple bypass surgery. I'll tell you, I was sick with worry. I could not handle all the thoughts going through my mind. He's never been sick like this before. He is the rock. But even he showed some wear during this time of trial. The night before his operation Helen gave me the article to read. I was tired, but I finished it and without much thought, went to sleep. The next morning on my way to work, right after I finished my rosary the full realization of the article swept over me. Our Lord was asking us to have faith, to give Him everything through His Mother, Our Mother, to love him and believe. I immediately gave up my entire Rosary intention, and especially to guide the hand of the surgeon working on my Dad, to Her. And then I just prayed a bit for problems that are so beyond me I cannot fathom, but knowing that my problems were in Her, and Her Son's hands. Today is Monday evening, and my Dad might be going home tomorrow. Like I said before, I've been given gifts these last few days, gifts of grace that have helped me and others in so many ways.
God is good, alleluia, alleluia.
O Mary, you lovingly receive the prayers of mortal men,
look upon us your suppliants,
be ever at our side.
Hymn from Evening Prayer