Rebuild my Church

In 1181 a boy was born to a wealthy merchant family in Assisi.  He was baptized Giovanni but became more popularly known by the name Francesco.  It was always thought that he would eventually take over the family business as a prominent cloth merchant. Francis was, however, a spirited and rebellious youth.  His wayward ways put him at loggerheads with his father, a relationship made all the more difficult when he was imprisoned for brawling with a neighbourhood gang.

This imprisonment changed him, though not to the liking of his father. He began to be concerned for the poor and especially for lepers. He threw away his clothes and renounced his father’s wealth. At the age of 20, he heard a different Father speaking to him. Go make disciples of all nations was what he heard. Francis rushed away from home and came to a derelict church of St. Damiano on the edge of Assisi. There he knelt in prayer and looked at the faded crucifix still hanging over the altar. Francis insists that the voice of Christ came to him at that moment. The words he heard were: Francis, rebuild my church, which you see is falling down. Eager to be given a specific task, Francis set about repairing the church. Other young people joined him and soon St. Damiano’s became a church again.

But, as is so often, God’s vision is wider than our understanding. We do what we think God wants and find that there is more. What God really wanted Francis to do was the rebuild not just St. Damiano’s, but THE Church. It was a time of spiritual decay and of disdain for God’s little ones in need — the poor, the lame, the leprous. Even the care of the Natural world was being neglected. The story of St. Francis and his companions is well known and he is especially remembered on October 4th. His work among the poor; his care for creation; his love of the simple. His devotion to Christ. These were the building blocks of a restoration of the Church. Francis through his simplicity of life and determination to serve God did exactly what God asked of him. He rebuilt the Church spiritually and gave it new vision.

Rebuild My Church! This call of God comes to Christians today. There is a wide vision to be embraced. God is calling us to reshape, refashion and renew His Church. We are being equipped, through prayer and conversation with God and each other, to be God’s dynamic people. We are being called to tell the story of His Love to all people with whom we have dealings, including our friends, neighbours and family but also those we have yet to meet, whom God will put in our way. God is calling us to rebuild the vision of his love both in our own hearts and in the lives of those whom he calls us to serve. But, as with Francis, it starts with ourselves and it starts today.

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