Sunday, July 12, 2015

On Preaching and St. Francis

Again, it was Deacon Andrew's weekend to preach, and he delivered an excellent homily about how we are called to be disciples. One particular point I liked is that some of us are actually called to give up everything and follow Christ:
We are also called not to rely on ourselves, but rely on God for everything. Does that mean leave your home and go be a missionary taking no possessions with you? Probably not, but some may be called to that, I know plenty of missionaries that do a similar thing.
Here in the West we live a very comfortable sort of Christianity, and so we seldom pay attention to Jesus' call to sell all you have and give to the poor in order to have treasure in heaven (Matt 10:21). We seldom pay much attention to the order that Jesus gave us in today's gospel, and that is to preach.

[stepping onto my soapbox]

A common homily to give in response to a gospel like this is to quote St. Francis of Assisi, who supposedly said, "Preach the gospel at all times, use words if necessary." The thinking is often that Jesus sent the twelve out to preach repentance (Matt 6:12), by which he clearly meant tell the people to stop sinning, and, well, that's a bit awkward and doesn't make for nice dinner conversation. Soooo...we need a more covert, less obtrusive way to preach the gospel,

Problem is, St. Francis never said this thing that is too commonly attributed to him. It doesn't appear in his writings. It doesn't appear in any of his biographies for the first 200 years after his death. And it doesn't fit the man. Francis was a deacon: he was ordained to preach. He tried to preach to the sultan to end the crusades. When people wouldn't listen to him anymore he was so overcome with love of his Creator that he preached to the birds.

By Jason Bach
We seriously need to stop falsely attributing this pithy quote to a preacher who never said it. A few sources on the internet alerted me to this common error, here, here, and here. But more importantly, we need to stop using this false quote as an excuse to not preach the gospel with our mouths. We need to stop using this false quote as an excuse for being Christians who tell ourselves that we're going to convert people because we smile politely a lot.

Paul tells us (really, actually, and scripturally, not just a false attribution) that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and ever tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil 2:10). You can't very well have the name of Jesus without someone who speaks it with words. And you can't very well confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father if you don't tell others about him.

So I am on a mostly one-man mission to convince the world of the falsehood of the above-mentioned quote. Join me in this effort. Preach the gospel. Use words. Words are necessary.

[stepping off my soapbox]

By me

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