The Living Death of the Cross

St. Francis of Assisi came to realize that an unrestrained appetite power, money and pleasure fragments the soul, causing our lives to be too divided and cluttered to find the true peace and joy that can only be found in loving and serving God above all else. Francis understood that on the cross, through grace, reconciliation and union with God became possible. He would urge us to live the Paschal Mystery, to enter the living death of the cross.

But we have a way of getting in our own way. We give into pride, avarice, lust, anger, and envy all too easily. Francis – poor, simple Francis – told us how to get out of our own way: “Do not look to life outside, for that of the spirit is better.”

Francis listened to the Word of God, and the light of grace penetrated to the incandescent center of his being, and his spirit responded to the Word’s freedom by a corresponding readiness to not only continue to listen but also accept and follow.

The life of St. Francis dramatically illustrates how the detached heart knows the fullness of peace, joy and freedom, and sees the face of God illuminated in all of creation. Those who struggle for their daily bread can offer great insight to those of us who struggle to go deeper into our spiritual lives. The road to mystical consciousness is paved with an acceptance of our natural state of exodus, acceptance of the reality of human misery, acceptance of our limitations and fragility. The poor know about these things. And the humanity of Christ illuminated the vulnerable character of human nature.

Over the last dozen years as I made my poverty films, I’ve came to see that an awareness of oppression and a struggle for justice are integral to genuine mysticism. The all-embracing Christ invites us to be with Him, so that He, through us, can be with all people.

We are all migrants. As people of faith, we are migrants going from sin to grace, from earth to heaven, from death to life. Our migration is grounded in our belief that God first migrated to us in the person of Jesus and through him we are called to migrate to God. If migration worked itself into the self-definition of all human beings we would not be as threatened by migrants as we often are; instead, we would see in them not only a reflection of ourselves but Christ who loves us.

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