This Saturday is the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi. It is also the 35th anniversary of a Mass celebrated by John Paul II on farmland outside of Des Moines, Iowa. (and I was there among the 300,000.)
It was a celebration of the impact of farming and the land. The banner in the background, now the logo of the local diocese, celebrate the simple patterns of the seasons on the land. The Holy Father began his homily with
Here in the heartland of America, in the middle of the bountiful fields at harvest time, I come to celebrate the Eucharist. As I stand in your presence in this period of autumn harvest, those words which are repeated whenever people gather for the Eucharist seem to be so appropriate: “Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation, through your goodness we have this bread to offer, which earth has given and human hands have made”.
We have been given grace and we are able to offer from what we have made. In this, we have become a channel. We are not the Source, but we can serve as the conveyance.
St. Francis of Assisi served as the channel, the conveyance, and not the Source. Jon Sweeney in America magazine recently suggested that Francis’ journey began and ended with—and his charism comprised almost entirely—a true and unique gift for friendship, for true solidarity. There were clear and distinct lines of gender, religion and status in his culture and time, and Francis crossed them all. Had he not also been of unimpeachable motives and character, he probably would have been burned at the stake for this radical solidarity. Francis was the channel of God’s love and friendship, agape; but not the Source.
Today, Pope Francis calls for us to be a channel for “The Joy of the Gospel.” He reminds us, in Evangeli Gaudium, that our personal relationship with the Lord and The Gospel offer us the chance to live life on a higher plane, but with no less intensity: “Life grows by being given away, and it weakens in isolation and comfort. Indeed, those who enjoy life most are those who leave security on the shore and become excited by the mission of communicating life to others.” (EG, 10) We are not meant to be a stagnant puddle of grace but a channel of joy as we communicate life.
Kendra Creasy Dean spoke of this challenge at the 2006 National Conference on Catholic Youth Ministry in Cleveland. (In addressing mission and evangelization, she gets to “how we think” at the 1:30 mark in the video below or here,) She suggests that we are to be so filled with God’s Spirit that the Love of the Lord, the Source of our life, overflows from our human channel and splashes around others.
Most high, all powerful, all good Lord! All praise is Yours, all glory, all honor, and all blessing. You are the Source of all Creation, make my human hands a channel of your love and mercy.