Chapter XVII of the Earlier Rule talks about preachers. It can be summarized in the following sentence: “Let all the brothers, beware of all pride and vainglory”.
In our reflection on Chapter XVI, we spoke about the two ways a missionary friar can evangelize when he is sent to “proclaim the faith” to his brothers and sisters who do not know the Good News of the Gospel. Chapter XVII helps to complete Chapter XVI. In Chapter XVII, St. Francis reminds us: “Let all the brothers, however, preach by their deeds” .
In Chapter XVII, we see the concern that the Poverello of Assisi has for his brother preachers. It is a concern that today, 800 years later, remains very topical: the impulse to proclaim the Gospel cannot come from a proud heart or from the pursuit of vainglory.
With the advancement of technology and social media, we can easily be tempted to proclaim the Gospel, not as an opportunity to make the Lord’s message known, but as a hypocritical front for self-promotion. Seeking compensation, applause and recognition to fill our existential voids and frustrations is the order of the day. One need only explore social media for half an hour to realize that many brothers and sisters, in the name of evangelization, get caught up in a whirlwind of interactions that border on the ridiculous, such as the pursuit of “likes” and “followers.”
Francis calls us to humility. He reminds us that we are God’s creatures and simple instruments: “Let us refer all good to the Lord, God Almighty and Most High, acknowledge that every good is His, and thank Him, from Whom all good comes, for everything”.
Francis makes it clear that preaching is not for everyone, as it implies a certain level of maturity and preparation. We can see this clearly, among other things, in one of the letters Francis wrote to St. Anthony:
Brother Francis sends greetings to Brother Anthony, my Bishop. I am pleased that you teach sacred theology to the brothers providing that, as is contained in the Rule, you “do not extinguish the Spirit of prayer and devotion” during study of this kind .
What are we looking for when we preach Gospel values? What is motivating us to proclaim the faith?
This concludes today’s reflection, dear reader.
Friar Elio J. ROJAS