A Franciscan Parish in the Archdiocese of Detroit

Fr. Jeremy's Reflection

Making God Too Small
by Friar Jeremy Harrington, O.F.M. 

I’m saddened when people see God as small. They may be talking about guilt or fears or worries. But they make God seem so unsympathetic, unforgiving, distant, or demanding. That is not the Father that Jesus told us about. Maybe they’ve had poor formation or have not experienced God’s love in prayer or through others.

I admit that these days I am focused on St. Francis of Assisi and his wonderful appreciation of God. On September 17, we remembered his encounter in love with Jesus crucified. On October 3, we have a moving service reliving his transitus, his joyful death. On October 4, we celebrate his life of embracing God, sisters, brothers, and all of creation. Then we ask him to bless the animals he loved.

It is not enough to say you believe in God, Scripture scholar Wilfrid Harrington, OP, says in his book Jesus Our Brother. “What matters, utterly, is the kind of God in whom one believes. It makes, literally, a world of difference whether one’s God is the true God or a distorted image of that God.” 

Moved by Humility 

Francis was graced with the awareness of the God who embraced him. He was “overwhelmed by the goodness of a loving God. In his prayer, “The Praises of God,” Francis sees God as “all good, supreme good, totally good, you who are all good . . . from whom comes all good. . . .”

In his “Earlier Rule,” Francis gives thanks “to the most high and supreme and eternal God, Trinity, and Unity, indescribable . . . incomprehensible . . . unfathomable . . . gentle, lovable . . . totally desirable above all else forever.”

Francis rejoiced that the Father so loved the world that he sent his only Son to become one of us and save us. He was moved by the humility of Jesus in becoming a baby in the womb of Mary, his suffering and death on the cross, and his presence in the Eucharist. For Francis, all of nature reflected the beauty and goodness of God.

He saw himself, of course, as a beggar before God, a penitent and sinner, but forgiven and loved. He was acutely aware that his love did not in any way adequately respond to God‘s love for him. I’m sad for all those who see a caricature of our bountiful God. They are missing so much love and joy. A feast is offered, but they are eating junk food.

Then I ask myself to what degree I am appreciating the wonders of God. Am I opening myself to God’s love and seeing the goodness of my sisters and brothers and the beauty of creation? Francis urges us “to hold back nothing of yourselves for yourselves so that God who gives himself totally to you may receive you totally.”