Brother Ass is so stubborn; that's the name given by St Francis of Assisi to his obstinate and infuriating body.
Good morning fellow Anglicans from the Church of the Ascension in Hilton, South Africa and other visitors; welcome to this week’s contemplation on St Francis of Assisi, the inspired thirteenth-century monk. His biography in Wikipedia is worth a read but I will pick up a few details.
Francesco was born into a wealthy family; he was apparently witty, gallant and delighted in fine clothes. He reputedly spent money lavishly and his sumptuous living closely paralleled the life of the rich man mentioned in Luke 16 that Sue van Niekerk preached so eloquently about recently.
Apparently whilst selling silk garments for his father in the market place he was approached by a beggar pleading for alms; a sort of Lazarus, we might say. It turned out to be a pivotal moment in Francesco's life.
His life also speaks to the parable of the lost son, who “came to himself,” that wonderfully pregnant phrase. Francesco had what might be called a conversion experience, a mystical vision of Jesus.
He lost all interest in his worldly pleasures and took to the way of poverty, rebuilding churches and caring for beggars; nursing lepers, exhorting the people to a life of penance and brotherly love too.
His followers eventually formed the Franciscan order.
This week’s talks are not so much about Francis’ life, but his great irritation with his body which he found so stubborn that he named it Brother Ass; the donkey that bore the real him.
As CS Lewis says, no one in his right senses can revere or hate a donkey. It is useful and sturdy, but lazy; an obstinate, lovable and infuriating beast.
This week I invite you to contemplate your own Brother Ass; do you too find him obstinate, stubborn and disobedient? Don’t feel alone. If a spiritual giant like St Francis, eventually canonised two years after his death had difficult getting his body to obey, are we likely to be any different?
But you know what is interesting? Brother Ass, this infuriating body, does not carry just you; he bears Almighty-God too. Tomorrow we will look at passages from 1 Corinthians in which St Paul reminds us that our human frames are also the temples of the Holy Spirit.
In closing today, I leave with you with a command from St Paul. “Let everyone lead the life that God has assigned to him, and to which He has called him.”
We are not all summoned to the road of poverty, but let’s be sure that we are true to our own calling. We will talk more about that on Wednesday.
Until tomorrow then, go in peace, loving God with your whole heart, all your mind and spirit; and your neighbour as yourself.
Brother Ass is so stubborn and must be tamed if we are to enjoy our health.
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