I celebrated Mass at the motherhouse of the Sisters of St. Francis in St. Francis, Wisconsin. Most of the Sisters there are retired and many are in wheelchairs. Here is what I told them in my homily today:
With about one month to go, our Year of Faith is drawing to a close. Today's first reading (Romans 4: 20-25) presents us with one of the greatest examples of faith--Abraham. He not only believed in God but he trusted in God. He trusted that God loved him, that God would care for him, that God would be true to His promises. This faith, in St. Paul's words, "empowered" him. It was behind all his decisions and actions.
One aspect of the faith that we share with Abraham is brought out in today's gospel (Luke 12: 13-21) where Jesus says "one's life does not consist in possessions." This is the belief that empowered St. Francis to strip himself of everything and to offer everything to God. He did so in order to follow Jesus more closely, imitating the one of whom St. Paul wrote in another letter (Philippians 2: 6-11), "he emptied himself." Jesus became a tiny, weak, and helpless infant, and "he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross." He believed that in this way the world would be saved.
St. Francis emptied himself in order to be filled. He became poor in order to be, in the words of Jesus from today's gospel, "rich in what matters to God." What matters to God? Love. God is love and humans, made in the image and likeness of God, are made to be like God, to love.
But poverty is more than having nothing of one's own, more than following the vow of poverty that consecrated persons take, promising to share everything in common. Real poverty means not even having a choice. The poorest of the world don't have a choice whether or not to give up possessions. This is the poverty that Jesus also revealed when he was nailed to a cross and was helpless.
Such poverty comes to us when our bodies and minds diminish, when poor health comes our way, when we don't have the strength to move around as we once did, when our memories fail. It is a poverty we may not choose but if we accept it and make it an offering to God for the salvation of souls, we will be "rich in what matters to God." Our faith that God can take this offering and do great things through it can empower us one day at a time to follow the path of St. Francis who followed the path of Jesus so closely.
God blesses this faith and this offering. Poor in the eyes of the world which values youth and vitality and good health, you will be "rich in what matters to God."