A Sermon on Saint Francis, 1266 - 732 

myself a slave to all that I might win the more. In this way Saint Francis imitated Christ who though he was in the form of God emptied himself, taking the form of a servant. And indeed, the service of God begins with humility. In this connection Saint Gregory says: "The person who acquires other virtues but not humility, is like someone carrying dust against the wind; he becomes all the more blinded by what he is seen to be carrying."a

Saint Francis was so humble that he also served lepers. Because of his great humility he was taken to the heights of knowing divine mysteries. We read in Isaiah: Behold my servant shall understand, he shall be exalted, and shall be exceeding high, and in Saint Matthew's Gospel: You have hidden these things from the wise and revealed them to babes. Mt 11:25

Furthermore, he was pleasing to God because of his steadfastness through mortification of the flesh. The Psalm says: I will lift up the cup of salvation . . . O Lord, for I am your servant. The cup signifies mortification of the flesh. Saint Paul writes: Our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. Rom 6:6 By this kind of mortification we serve God as Saint Paul makes clear: I am speaking in human terms . . . For just as you once yielded your members to serve impurity and greater and greater iniquity, so now yield your members to serve righteousness for sanctification.

That is precisely what Saint Francis did. Even in the severest winter he rolled himself in the snow to curb temptations of the flesh. On account of his self-denial he was found worthy to receive divine consolations. Commenting on the text of Saint Luke's Gospel: let your loins be girt, Saint Gregory explains: "We gird our loins when we curb the lusts of the flesh by continence."b Saint Luke goes on to say that when the Lord finds servants such as these he will gird himself and make them sit down, Lk 12:37 that is, be consoled. All the unchaste will be excluded from this consolation, as the Book of Revelation testifies: Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and unchaste.

Third, Saint Francis was pleasing to God because he was faithful by having renounced all earthly desires. We read in the Book of Numbers: My servant Moses is the most faithful in all my house. A faithful servant is one who does not look for human praise, as we learn from the text of Saint Paul: If I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. Gal 1:10 On this Saint Bernard writes: "You are indeed a faithful ser-




Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 2, p. 732