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A Spirituality of the Beatitudes

The Franciscan Way

A Spirituality of the Beatitudes
Friday, June 26, 2015

In the Franciscan reading of the Gospel, there is no reason to be religious or to love God except “to love much the one who has loved us much,” as Francis said. Religion is not about heroic will power or winning or being right. This has been a counterfeit for holiness in much of Christian history. True growth in holiness is a growth in willingness to love and be loved and a surrendering of our willfulness, even holy willfulness (which is still “all about me”).

Franciscan spirituality proceeds from the counterintuitive spirituality of the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12). Read them and see how Francis exemplifies each one so well. While the Ten Commandments are about creating social order (a good thing), the eight Beatitudes of Jesus are all about incorporating what seems like disorder, which is a very different level of consciousness. With the Beatitudes, there is no social or ego payoff for the false self. Obeying the Commandments can appeal to our egotistic consciousness and our need to be “right” or better than others.

Obedience to the Ten Commandments does give us the necessary impulse control and containment we need to get started, which is a foundational need in the first half of life. “I have kept all these from my youth,” the rich young man says, while he then refuses to go further (Mark 10:22). The Beatitudes, however, reveal a world of pure grace and abundance, or what Spiral Dynamics and Integral Theory would call the second tier of consciousness and what I call second-half-of-life spirituality. Francis doesn’t call it anything; he just lives it on his path of love. Mature and mystical Christianity is “made to order” to send you through your entire life journey and not just offer you containment.

I hope you can now see more clearly how Francis cannot be written off as a mere soft and sweet figure. Looking clearly at his actual life and practice shows how he was deliberately undercutting the entire “honor/shame system” on which so much of culture, violence, false self-esteem, and even many of the ministrations of church depends. Doing anything and everything solely for God is certainly the most purifying plan for happiness I can imagine. It changes the entire nature of human interaction and eliminates most conflict.

Gateway to Silence:
“I am who I am in the eyes of God, nothing more and nothing less.” —Francis of Assisi

Adapted from Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi, pp. 104-105, 115

Image credit: Legend of St Francis: 5. Renunciation of Worldly Goods (detail fresco), 1297-99, Giotto di Bondone, Upper Church, San Francesco, Assisi
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