Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: July 31, 2017

When St. Francis was in his early twenties, he rode off to battle against the nearby state of Perugia. There, Francis was captured and held in a prison for over a year. After his release, he returned home, but was very ill and spent the next year virtually bedridden. Francis finally recovered from his illness, and spent time simply wandering around the area, praying in abandoned chapels, walking in the woods of Mount Subasio, spending time in caves listening first to the silence, and then finally to the very voice of God.
I know that the presence of God during times of illness may seem foreign to some, but to those of us who have encountered illness and God in a very real, but different way at these times, we are changed. Our priorities are changed and our desires, too. Perhaps it is a sense that this is all so very fleeting, or at least impermanent. Yes, there’s something about a serious illness that forces us to confront our mortality and then to question our priorities. Many of us reprioritize without even knowing it and then enter a life of service and giving; we try to make a difference here, knowing something better to come there.
Recently, Senator John McCain voted a very prominent and highly publicized ‘thumbs down’ to his colleague’s efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. John Fund, of the National Review, wrote recently that, “…this is a perfect example of letting the perfect be the enemy of the better”and condemned McCain for his vote.
I do not see this issue as clearly as Fund. I see a man, a very human man, who in 1968 sat more than 8,000 miles away, in a tiny, squalid North Vietnamese prison cell. The Navy pilot’s body was broken from a plane crash, then starvation, botched operations, and months of torture followed. He returned to serve this nation, and to fight his own skin cancer, and now glioblastoma. Now, to be clear, I and Senator McCain differ on many issues politically, but this is not a political fight to me. In fact, my insights today are anything but political. Rather, I see a man on the verge of change because his worldview is about to shift yet again.
St. Francis is not the first saint to have encountered God during an illness. Like many of us when we are young, St. Francis had longed to be a knight, or a soldier, and to do great deeds on the field of battle. When he lost that opportunity, he had a choice between spending the rest of his life depressed at his ill fortune, or listening to the plans God had for him and making a difference with what time he was allotted here, before his eternal reward there.
An old story is told of the man who returned home to find his house ablaze. His terrified wife was standing outside pointing up to a window where the son was crying. His father shouted up to him, “Jump, son! Jump!” The boy cried, “But Daddy, I can’t see you.” “I know,” his father answered. “I know, but I can see you!” 
As Christians, we know that we do not go through our trials and tribulations alone. God sees us. God knows our name. John McCain jumped. I once jumped, too. 
How about you?

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