View from the choir

I am a Catholic layperson and Secular Franciscan with a sense of humor. After years in the back pew watching, I have moved into the choir. It's nice to see faces instead of the backs of heads. But I still maintain God has a sense of humor - and that we are created in God's image.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Francis's Admonition 2: Self-Will

The second Admonition of St. Francis of Assisi focuses on "The Evil of Self-Will.

The Lord God said to Adam: "Of every tree of paradise thou shalt eat. But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil thou shalt not eat." Adam therefore might eat of every tree of paradise and so long as he did not offend against obedience he did not sin. For one eats of the tree of knowledge of good who appropriates to himself his own will and prides himself upon the goods which the Lord publishes and works in him and thus, through the suggestion of the devil and transgression of the commandment, he finds the apple of the knowledge of evil; wherefore, it behooves that he suffer punishment.

The last section is translated slightly differently in Francis and Clare: The Complete Writings.

"... what he eats become for him the fruit of the knowledge of evil. Therefore it is necessary that he bear the punishment."

As the name of this Admonition suggests, self-will is evil. In the Garden the fruit was not the source of evil. It was the decision to eat the fruit in disobedience that was evil. The sin was Adam and Eve's appropriating to themsleves the fruit they had been forbidden.

In my own life I so often stumble when I appropriate to myself something that, in and of itself is not evil, but in which I should not partake. Sin comes when I willfully choose to disobey, to follow my own path out of lust and greed and selfish desire.

Francis chose to follow the path of complete poverty. He chose to appropriate nothing to himself - luxury, sexuality, comfort, food, and so on, things that are of themselves not evil, but which can be the subjects of self-will. They were things that Francis believed he coveted out of his own desire, and not out of the will of God. God help me to follow Francis's lead and not follow the dictates of my own self-will, for that is when I am most likely to sin.



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