Service: Lens of Tradition

St. Francis of Assisi was an Italian Roman Catholic friar who lived during the early 13th century. He is one of the most recognized influential characters in the pages of Christian history. While born wealthy, Francis allowed the gospel to penetrate his life and willfully took on poverty. He would go on to establish several orders of monks, some of which still exist today. After his passing, a collection of stories about his life was published known as The Little Flowers of St. Francis.

One such story involved Francis and a fellow friar named Leo. The two were caught in a bitter rain, and it provoked them to conversation about finding true joy.  Francis listed several things that both the real and religious world thought were the source of joy, but concluded “Perfect joy is not in that.”  By the end of the conversation, Leo asked, “I beg you in God’s name to tell me where is perfect joy?” Francis concluded that in the humiliating, self-abasing things is the source of true joy.

Online: This work is in the public domain and you can read a copy of it online at http://sacred-texts.com/chr/lff/lff011.htm

Historically, the Church has always served in some capacity. When the focus shifted from serving Christ which lead to serving the communities in which we live, then discord followed. Take for example the Great Schism in the 11th Century. Our predecessors started arguing over whether to use leaven or unleaven bread in Communion, a symptom of a bigger problem no doubt. What was really going on was a power struggle, between what would later become the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches. In short, Michael I Cerularius who was the patriarch in his area ordered the closure of all Latin churches in Constantinople. The Pope to word of this and sent Leo IX to tell him that he didn’t have that right. Cerularius also supported the idea that you could use the unleavened bread for Communion. Bickering ensued, the church was split.

Same with the Protestant Reformation. In 1517 AD, The Catholic Church, under the rule of Pope Leo X, wanted funds for to rebuild St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. He offered indulgences for those who would contribute. Indulgences are the belief that you can reduce the amount of punishment one has to go through and the length of time spent in Purgatory. The marketing went “viral” if you will and thus we have the Reformation.

Granted, these are hyper condensed and simplistic examples, but the message is clear. When our focus is not on Christ, we lose the will to serve others and disaster ensues.

Spiritual Discipline: Service Series

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