The Morning Sermon on Saint Francis, 1267 - 754 

tained by God's mercy because from his stock the Son of God was to be born, through whom all sins were to be forgiven. It was first of all necessary for the sinew of his thigh to shrink, which may be interpreted as "to mortify the flesh." In the Book of Daniel the three young men prayed: And at this time there is no prince . . . no place to make an offering before you or to find mercy. Yet with a contrite heart and a humble spirit may we be accepted by the Lord. If you desire to be sustained by God's forgiving mercy, you must first struggle with the angel in prayer in order to curb evil desires, and then you can offer the sacrifice of a contrite heart. Here on earth the soul is set on fire by evil desires and objects enticing the senses, as if it were burning in a fiery furnace. But if the angel comes down into the furnace and penetrates our spirit with God's grace, then we will humble ourselves and begin to mortify the flesh and so be pleasing to God. As the Book of Daniel records, the angel will make the midst of the furnace like the blowing of wind bringing dew, Dn 3:50 and so the young will not feel the flame of sensual desires, and should they feel them, they will do them no harm.

Saint Francis did not cease from weeping for his sins from the moment of his conversion to the time the Lord appeared to him and assured him that his many sins were forgiven him down to the last farthing. I would like to have this assurance more than anything else in the world. It was given also to Mary Magdalene. And so, because Saint Francis despised himself, he was sustained by God's forgiving mercy.

Second, because he took care of his neighbor he was sustained by God's protecting mercy. We read in Isaiah: You are my servant. I have chosen you and not cast you away. . . . I have strengthened you and helped you and the right hand of my Just One has upheld you. Lk 9:62 Saint Francis did not turn back; after putting his hand to the plough, he did not look back. He was chosen and not cast away. He avoided not only mortal sin, but also venial sin, as far as this is humanly possible. The right hand of my Just One has upheld you, says Isaiah. Who is this Just One? Saint John gives us the answer: We have an advocate in heaven with the Father, Jesus Christ the just. The right hand of my Just One is the right hand of Almighty God who kept him safe from all his enemies. When demons attacked him and thrashed him bodily, he always had recourse to God's help. He was able to make his own the words of the Psalm: In the shadow of your wings I sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me. Anyone who seeks protection must place himself under God's right hand.

Third, Saint Francis revered God and for this he was sustained by God's liberating mercy. As the Psalm says: You have held me by the right hand; and by your will you have guided me and with your glory you have




Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 2, p. 754