A Reflection by Fred Schaeffer, OFS
The Preface of the Christmas Mass tells us: "Through Him, whom we know by sight, we are drawn to love of things invisible." The Sacraments... these are visible things, such as the oil, the bread, wine, human words (prayers), the chalice, a ciborium... The Sacraments become signs and carriers of divine grace... the invisible. God's love, of which we receive copious amounts is often invisible.
Saint Francis of Assisi was very much aware of things that are invisible to many or even most of us. He saw the depth and breadth of things invisible that most of us would not be able to comprehend unless we could call ourselves true friends of Jesus Christ.
We have ample examples of this - there is an underlying depth in St. Francis' "Canticle of Brother Sun" that remains invisible to many of us. And, he was a true friend of Jesus, being allowed to wear His wounds, the Stigmata. Francis understood the cause and effect of the Cross well beyond our understanding of it. We know that by His Cross we are redeemed, we are given a chance to be with God in Heaven for all time, but Francis knew that in order to merit this final reward he would have to suffer the pain of the Cross. We all do... for what is the Cross ... It represents Original Sin. That's what Jesus' suffering was all about. That's the aspect of His Cross that seems invisible to a great many of us. For rolled up into the package of Original Sin are our sins as well.
Jesus suffered on the Cross for things that are invisible to us. Sin. Very grievous sin. Sins we do not even think about and which we could not comprehend are being committed every second of the day by some misguided individual. In short, someone who loves only him or herself, and the love for God comes up short. Someone who consciously reasons at the moment of decision: "I matter, God doesn't." Maybe not in these same words, or sometimes no words at all (all caution thrown to the wind) but people who commit serious sin most often think only of themselves and not at all about anyone else or the consequences of their actions. And more than often, these consequences are things invisible in the negative sense.
But let us continue to dwell on things invisible in a positive sense. In liturgy, be it the Sacrifice of the Mass, a Benediction, a Baptism, a House Blessing, the Blessing of Animals as Franciscan Friars do on a certain day... in all that and more, we must see the invisible. We are reminded in Scripture "I am the way...He who sees me sees the Father." A purpose of Religion is to announce the coming of the Kingdom. "It must prepare the way for the sacred image of Christ which speaks to the believer out of the memory of the Church."1
The sacred image of Christ is invisible to all, except to those who see Him in contemplation. We believe in God the Father, Christ the Son, and that Godly love we know as the Holy Spirit. But we do not see these Trinitarian figures. They are invisible to us. Yet they are real. They are a part of what we believe and see in our hearts. And if we believe, then there is no reason to sin, for we know that our sin, collectively or individually is to Jesus a slap in His face, a lash of the whip to His back, a pounding hammer that drove the nail into His sacred hands. The habit of sin can be broken by those willing to commit to Jesus, to things invisible with Grace that is also invisible. But we believe that among everything, God will prevail. We see Him often, weekly, daily at Holy Mass. We see Him in the "breaking of the bread," as the disciples did at Emmaus. The visible Christ is now invisible. But to many of us, He is very present. When He is visible in all we do, then we have conquered sin. Keep working at it. Your reward is eternal life. That stage is also invisible, but it's the only goal in life worth working toward.
1. From "The Art of Being Human." William McNamara, O.C.D., 1967 Echo Books (Doubleday & Company)
*Most often read Reflection on this website, in 2018.
Secular Franciscan Order
Ordo Franciscanus Sæcularis
Divine Mercy Fraternity
Vero Beach, FL
Term expires: 2/10/2022
Fred Schaeffer, OFS
Helen Caldarone, OFS
Mary "Jean" McGovern, OFS
Jack Reddy, OFS
Donna Haro, OFS
Joanne Giordano, OFS
Fred Schaeffer, OFS
Five Franciscan Martyrs