As my readers may know, I recently was given the privilege of going on pilgrimage to the land of St. Francis and St. Clare, Assisi, Italy. Our pilgrimage was guided by two Franciscans who possess a gift of sharing Franciscan history and mission, Sister Ann Bremmer, OSF and Fr. Andre Cirino, OFM.
At one point on the journey, Fr. Andre facilitated a session introducing us to Francis’ understanding of God as good or as or, as scholars of the time would have said, God as bonum. We learned that as Bonaventure reflected upon the life of Francis and what it meant, discovered something unique. A way of thinking of God, a theology of God as good, goodness itself and how in our communion with God, we too can be transformed into “good.”
While many contemplate the sin and deficiencies of the world or themselves, Francis and Clare contemplated on the goodness of God and its transformative power. As I listened to Fr. Andre, this concept resonated with me. I reflected upon my journey with God and how often I had focused upon myself, my shortcomings and my deficiencies. While I think it important for any person to be aware of these, I thought too of how many times I allowed my “lack” to be what ruled in my life rather than my “gift” or goodness.
It seems to me that a better and more fruitful way to walk this earth is one that understands the inherent goodness in the created universe. How would the world be different, how would our lives be different, if we lived our days immersed in the goodness of God, who created the world and said it was good? Understanding that goodness in the created world around me? Understanding the goodness in you and I and every person from the beginning of time? The same God who created the universe, the earth and its creatures, created humankind and said we were VERY good.
I’m now finding my new road home from my pilgrimage. On this new road that I’m being called to travel, there’s a challenge: Flying in the face of my own observation of my lack, I know also that I am good. Jesus did not only come to redeem me from my sin, but to redeem me for the very purpose of being transformed into the image of the goodness of God.
On this new road, I’m called to be like Jesus–who I think now would have come even if we had never sinned–to invite us into the goodness of God, and to live in that goodness and share it with each other and all creation.
With the state of things in the world today, perhaps the understanding Francis and Clare had of the goodness of God is more relevant now than ever. It would be heaven on earth, right?
Francis focused on Jesus Christ, in whom uncreated divinity is united to a created human nature. In the life of Jesus, he contemplated the Most High God’s embrace of the poor and lowly, sinners in the created world. Francis’ desire to imitate this love of God, led him to embrace the leper and the poor. He even embraced the sinner as good.
Fr. Andre shared the story of Francis’ actions when a priest was denounced for living in sin. If that would be scandalous now, just think about what it must have meant then! Francis publicly kissed the priest’s hands and spoke of the dignity of the sacraments which he administered. He could have condemned or ignored; instead he saw the goodness present in the man and praised God for it. Francis knew that it is through goodness in every form that God unites all things in Christ (Ephesians 1:9-10). Thus, Francis’ experience of the Bonum is now becoming my experience of God. I’m trying to see the cup as half full, and I know who filled it!