Following the example of St Francis, each friar (and indeed everyone) is called to a life of conversion. As such, it is easy to relate Franciscan spirituality with a spirituality of the Cross, of Christ’s passion. But is not Franciscan spirituality fundamentally anchored on the Resurrection? After all, what is conversion but a movement away from sin and self-love towards a renewal of the mind, and a resurrected way of life made possible by Christ risen again?
Conversion is rooted in the hope of Easter. So we are called to imitate Jesus not only in his poverty, passion and suffering, but also in his glory as we claim the victory of Christ over our old selves and live as children of light. The Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus all tell one story: the Paschal mystery. This link between Good Friday and Easter Sunday is aptly demonstrated by the stigmata. It is interesting that the wounds of Christ that keenly remind us of his gruesome death are what convinced St Thomas of the Risen Lord. Likewise, it is true that many times, it is our own brokenness that awakens us to our acute need for God.
Indeed, the movement from death to life is a pattern of reality for all who believe in Jesus. The San Damiano cross captures this truth beautifully. On it, the Risen Christ, still wounded by our sins, stands and welcomes us with open eyes and open arms. It illustrates the death and life, helplessness and power of God simultaneously. Even poverty, a much-cherished virtue in Franciscanism, is a remembrance of the Resurrection.
We recall that as Jesus rose from the dead, the linen cloth was left behind. This is a powerful symbol of a Christian’s utter dependence on God – for in Him, we have all we need. In the face of God who has overcome all, even death, to save us, poverty appears to be the only valid response. We know that if we abandon our whole selves to God, and persevere in imitating Jesus, we will surely be raised up like Him as well.
St Francis knew what it meant to persevere. At his death, his biographer Thomas of Celano noted something wondrous and had this to say: “And they beheld his flesh which had been dark before glittering with exceeding whiteness and promising by its beauty the reward of a blessed resurrection. Finally, they saw his face like the face of an angel, as if he were alive and not dead.” (The First Life of St Francis, Chapter 9, no 112).
Easter has come. We can begin anew. May the path of St Francis lead us to the joy of encountering our Risen Saviour! Alleluia!