Friday, August 11, 2006

Friday in the 18th Week of Ordinary Time (II)
Memorial of St. Clare of Assisi
Peace and Renunciation

Readings: Nahum 2:1, 3; 3:1-3, 6-7; Deuteronomy 32: 35cd-36ab, 39abcd, 41; Matthew 16:24-28

What has the first reading to do with the gospel? -- A useful question with which to begin our meditation today.

The first reading speaks of a messenger bringing good news of peace to God’s people. See, over the mountains the messenger hurries! ‘Peace!’ he proclaims… Yes, the Lord is restoring the vineyard of Jacob and the vineyard of Israel.

In the gospel, Jesus, the Living Word of God, God’s messenger and message par excellence exclaims: If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.

The first reading speaks of peace, the gospel of renunciation. Once again we might ask ourselves: what connection does one have with the other? What has peace to do with renunciation?

We find something of an answer in the life of our saint for today. As we well know, St. Clare was a companion and follower of the great St. Francis of Assisi. She lived a life of voluntary evangelical poverty that was austere yet rich in works of charity and piety, and became a mother and foundress of an order of nuns: the Poor Clares. Not all of us are called to the specific form of poverty that Clare and Francis lived. But all Christians are called to the kind of renunciation that animated them, the kind that Jesus talks about in the gospel. For the way of renunciation is also the way of peace. This is what Clare discovered. And it is something that we need to discover for ourselves in the particular and unique circumstances of our own lives.

Today, how are we yearning for peace? How are we being called to be messengers of peace? What expressions of renunciation are we being invited to embrace?

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