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Simplicity

Shedding the "stuff"

Don't store up treasures here on earth where they can be eaten by moths and get rusty, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where they will never become moth-eaten or rusty and where they will be safe from thieves. Wherever your treasure is, there your heart and thoughts will also be.
6:19-21

The discipline of simplicity is not the most pleasant of spiritual disciplines, but it remains one of the most important. We so easily allow our lives to be defined by possessions, status, and all manner of social expectations. Being a disciple means shedding ourselves of anything that blurs our vision of Christ. No person better illustrates this than Francis of Assisi.

His father, Pietro, was a wealthy Italian cloth merchant, and he taught the adolescent Francis the family business. But when Francis entered his early twenties, he began to think his life was becoming too complicated, too concerned with status and wealth.

One day Francis impulsively took fine fabric from the family shop, rode to market, and sold it. Then he sold the family horse he'd been riding. And then—this is what infuriated Pietro—Francis gave away the proceeds to the poor! As if this weren't bad enough, a month later Pietro discovered Francis walking the streets of Assisi, begging for food and becoming a laughingstock. An enraged Pietro dragged Francis home, beat him, and locked him in a dark cellar, limiting him to bread and water until he came to his senses. When this punishment didn't work, he dragged Francis before the local bishop.

The bishop told Francis that it was not right to steal, even from one's family, or even if for the poor. He instructed Francis to return what he had taken. Francis looked shaken but said nothing. He simply stepped into an adjoining room while Pietro and the bishop waited.

Francis emerged a few minutes later, completely naked. Carrying his clothes in a neat pile, he walked up to Pietro and placed them at his feet. He then turned to those present and said, "Up to now, I have called Pietro di Bernardone father. Hereafter I shall not say, 'Father Pietro di Bernardone,' but 'Our Father Who Art in Heaven!'"

The bishop was so moved that he took off his cope and wrapped it around Francis, who just turned and walked out of the cathedral. It was a break with everything his father represented— comfort, wealth, status. Francis wanted nothing to stand in the way of his following Christ.

Few of us are called to make such radical breaks, but the larger point is still well taken. You don't have to be fabulously wealthy to see that material things can clutter the spiritual life and that periodically we must shed ourselves of some "stuff" so we can focus our lives on Christ again.

Mark Galli

Reflection

How can I make my life less complicated, simpler, so that I have more time and energy to focus on things spiritual?

Prayer

Lord, show me yourself afresh so that I can once again see and feel that you are more valuable than anything I can own or attain—so that I won't be so tempted to spend my energies accumulating things but rather living for you.

"The Christian discipline of simplicity is an inward reality that reflects an outward lifestyle. Both the inward and outward aspects of simplicity are essential."

—Richard Foster, author

July/August
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