Introduction My dear brothers and sisters of the grand Franciscan Family, welcome to our spring of spiritual quench. We commit this time to our spiritual nourishment through reflection and Discernment. Today we would like to reflect on a very profound theme of our spirituality- the Franciscan Goodness, that is how goodness is perceived through the Franciscan lenses. The spiritual purpose of this reflection on Franciscan Goodness is to ensure that whoever treads the paths of St. Francis appreciates the route which Francis took to the Father. Principally, this reflection assists all of us to appreciate the Franciscan journey from the Known (creation) to the invisible being (God the Creator). Creation is the ladder to the Father. This is only true when we, who are followers of St. Francis are able to see the illumination of GOODNESS in nature which indubitably coerce us to search for the All – Good of which creation is nothing but a mirror. To appreciate our reflection, let us operationalize some terms so that their meanings in this reflection are clear and purposeful Definition of Terms In this reflection, the term Franciscan denotes a particular perspective which is commonly favored by all the Franciscan members and some non-Franciscan individuals in their perception of God. If it is in catering, one would say it is a dish with a Franciscan spice, that is the outstanding difference. In short, we are saying, Goodness viewed from the Franciscan viewpoint. AND… Goodness is understood as fundamentally asking a question of how well someone or something fulfils its purpose. Goodness is understood as the perfection of being. A thing is good to the degree that it enacts and perfects those powers, activities, and capacities appropriate to its nature and purpose. Therefore, Franciscan Goodness is a method through which we experience God manifesting Himself to us and how we subsequently respond to that manifestation by either re-enactment or by participation. There are several transcendentals (Transcendentals are the timeless and universal attributes of being.3 They are the properties of all beings. They reflect the divine origin of all things and the unity of all truth and reality in God. These elements are among the deepest realities. They help unite men across time and culture and are often a delight to explore and discuss, because they are substantive to our very nature.), that are ascribed to God such as Truth, Beauty, Unity and Goodness and these are sometimes viewed as revealed channels of viewing God. Depending on one’s position, one would find out that to some, God as truth appeals more than God as Beauty or unity. Be that as it may, to Francis and to the Franciscan tradition, God emerges as Goodness and from him emanates every good and to him all goodness returns.
St. Francis and the Good Our Seraphic Father’s own conversion is characterized by God as All-Good. The experience of God’s goodness in the life of Francis during his early years is echoed in the dramatic events that unfolded, the knight life of Francis and his imprisonment, the change of heart from being a promising troubadour to being a poverello, the denial of the earthly father in favor of God, the rejection of pleasurable life to embrace holy poverty which was found in lepers. Francis moved from the centre of business enterprise to accepting the perils of the peripheries. What prompted him to take this route was his experience of God’s goodness. He therefore continually expressed the Goodness of God in his prayers; You are holy Lord God Who does wonderful things. You are strong, you are great, You are the most high…You holy Father, are king of heaven and earth.… You are the good, all good, the highest good, Lord God living and true. You are love and affection. … You are riches in abundance. You are beauty…. This shows a lot of GOOD in God To learn from Francis we too need to reflect on how our God is “all good” and has shared goodness with us by creating us, giving us the talents and opportunities we needed to find our place in life, offering us vocation either to religious life or to matrimony, families and friends. To keep the goodness of God in front of our minds and hearts we too need to take the time to pray and reflect on how we have been blessed by God who is “all good.” God can’t do anything to harm us; God only wants what is good for us. The idea of an All – Good God pervaded St Francis’ being so much that he could not segregate humanity from creatures, objects from subjects. Francis rather saw God, humanity and all creation as rather intrinsically good therefore, he deemed it necessary that our duty is to give back to God every good that we experience in our lives Goodness in the Franciscan Tradition The Franciscan goodness was formulated into a theological discourse by the great thinkers such as Bonaventure and Duns Scotus. Bonaventure , in his theology which was inspired by the life of St. Francis, avowed that God is a goodness that continually flows like a waterfall. He introduced the concept of Self diffusive God to denote a God who gives so freely to us so much that all of reality, all that we know is basically loved into being. God’s goodness is free, dynamic and eternal. Progressively, Bonaventure confirmed God as all good, the highest good and the Highest of this goodness is Love. Therefore, God the Father is Love who shares the love with the Son who is the Beloved and together they beget the Spirit which is the fruit of their love. This is the Franciscan understanding of the Trinity. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are relational, eternal, dynamic and always communication. Our approach as Franciscans start with the Triune God. The mystery of the Triune God stresses God as essentially relationship; that the nature of God is love and goodness. God is goodness, and this goodness is expressed in the relationship of the Father, Son and Spirit. This goodness manifest within God, ad intra, then overflows outside the Trinity, ad extra, into the act of creation. Creation thus shares in the goodness of God. On another shift, the Franciscans extracted a deeper meaning in the reality of the incarnation, why did God become man? God who is goodness par excellence took the human nature not to fix the mistake of sin but to express his love more fully so that humanity would imitate. He became man because he wanted to love. Even today, our primary task is not to fight sin but to express love. Goodness not evil lies at the centre of our Christian faith. John Duns Scotus, summed it very well when he asserted that, even without Adam’s sin Christ was going to come. Meaning that what he came for was to express his goodness through love not to fix the sin of Adam. Franciscan Spirituality of Goodness "For Francis all creation became a theophany, a manifestation of the goodness of God," Creation is God’s goodness, it is a reflection of His love and wisdom and it helps our spiritual journey towards God’s Holy Trinity. Creation is where we experience our humanity and it’s the world where God’s artistry and fingerprints come to us through our senses and it is our senses we use to follow the footprints of Christ and to feel God’s Holy Spirit around us. Sight – enables us to see beauty in everything from a clear blue sky, Autumn leaves to creeping creatures, insects and worms. Hearing – to listen to the sounds of creation’s harmony, of birds singing, dogs barking, waves crashing and wind howling. Smell – to sense how God’s words can have fragrance like flowers, aroma like natural oils, the strength of a lion’s roar and the sweat of a hard day’s work. Touch – to feel blessings, healing and compassion, to feel the warmth of the sun and the coldness of snow, the solution of water to the harness of rock. Taste – to experience God’s sweet words expressed in summer fruits and winter vegetables. (BY Rassouli) Our senses help our inner self experience, our outside self as part of, and within, Creation – they are a bridge from the inner to the outer understanding of our creature-ness as created by God and formed in love by His Holy Spirit. Through creation we understand that God exists, that Divinity is pure spirit and can be found in creatures, elements, plants, geography, geology and biology as power, presence and essence and that creation is for us to enjoy and cherish. Bonaventure explains that Creation is about God’s sublimity, dignity and immense goodness and that it’s where we see reflections, vestiges [traces] and the likeness of God. Creation is the footprint of God behind which we follow The Franciscan Tradition holds a sacramental view of the world and of the human person as a reflection of God’s overflowing goodness. Franciscan Goodness Today What then does Franciscan goodness help us in this our contemporary world? The first point is to understand the state of our world. It is cast by doubt and uncertainties, individualism and consumerism, pandemic and many wars. This invokes a call change. We need a better world, a world where confidence replaces doubt and uncertainties where collaboration is a better option that individualism. A world where there is more peace than wars and a heathier world free from pandemics. To achieve this, Franciscan goodness offers an alternative, it seeks to help all of us to set our priorities right by: having an optimistic view of human person- that is upholding human dignity which is currently under threat. Franciscan Goodness demands that humanity be at the centre of the universe not as a dominating element of the ecosystem but as a unifying hub of all the creatures. Since Franciscan goodness immerses itself in the relational eternal love of the Trinity, it finds its relevance in having the most needed abundant vision of divine action. The world today is pro- secular so the Franciscan Goodness dictates the need of sacred places within the universe. Due to secularism, the contemporary world interrogates the relevance of religion and spirituality but Franciscan Goodness helps to affirm the divine presence it quashes the forces of secularism by stamping the authority of God’s presence in the universe. When we experience the divine presence, we are prompted to respect creation especially ecology which under dire threat. Franciscan Goodness always gives us vision which is inspired by hope and joy. Finally, Franciscan goodness helps us to appreciate that what rules in the world we live in is not power or autonomy or domination but love which according to Franciscan Goodness, is the Highest good. Reflection How do you relate your goodness to God’s goodness? Which areas of your life do you think God’s goodness is lacking? Can you identify areas around you where God’s goodness manifest itself through creation?