Summary: Whatever our state of life, we are called to live and die in love. We are called to follow Jesus and to become saints ourselves.
January 10, 2019
St. Louis of Toulouse
Every day we wake up, we wake up to the understanding that our being able to wake up is a divine gift. Every night when we retire saying our night prayers, we make an act of confidence in God, trusting that if we die that night, we are in the care of the Savior. In between those two periods of prayer and clarity, we prove to God and to those around us that we love God. How do we do that? St. John tells us today: “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.”
What are those commandments. They are two, but they are one: we are to love God above all things, and love our neighbor as ourselves. Or, even more, we are to love our neighbor, even our enemy, as Jesus Christ did. We are to give, to grieve, to comfort, to listen, to console, to encourage those who need our love. And that is how we need to live every day of our lives. We must live and die in love, and if we do, we are fit for the eternal companionship of God and the saints.
Now when we understand this, and then read again this Gospel from St. Luke, especially if we continue to read past the last line, we should understand better why, just after they say “isn’t this the son of the carpenter?” they try to run Jesus out of town and throw him off a cliff. Jesus has read, probably from Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. . .” and “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” They began to realize that Jesus was identifying them with the poor. So let’s enter into their minds, speculate what their thoughts were, and their conversation with each other.
“Hey, we are all Jews. We are all members of the chosen people. We know our Scriptures. We tithe and fast. Here we are on the Sabbath in the synagogue. And this wood-chiseler presumes to tell us that He’s somebody special. He tells us that we are ignorant and poor. WHO does He think He is, anyway, the Son of God?” But their very actions of turning off their hearing and creating a blood-thirsty mob prove that they don’t love God, and don’t love their neighbor. The story is a perfect model of those who condemn themselves by refusing to hear and obey the Word of God given in the Son of God.
Now when I say this is the feast of St. Louis, those of you with French or Alsatian heritage say, “sacré bleu. We celebrate King St. Louis at the end of August.” This is a different Saint Louis, a bishop of Toulouse from the 13th century. Born in the year 1274, Louis was the second son of Charles of Anjou "the Lame" and Maria Arpad, daughter of King Stephen V of Hungary. His father was appointed King of Naples by Pope Clement. The boy was himself a nephew of Saint Louis IX and of Mary of Hungary,” who was herself related to St. Elizabeth and St Margaret of Hungary. So Louis had a heritage of royalty and holiness.
Louis spent much of his boyhood as a hostage of the king of Aragon, but as a hostage he was placed in the care of Catalonian Franciscans. They tutored him in academics and spiritual life, and he fell in love with Christ and the Church and the Franciscan way. He also began to care for the poor, especially those afflicted with leprosy. “While he was still a hostage, Louis decided to renounce his royal title and become a priest. When he was 20, he was allowed to leave the king of Aragon’s court. He renounced his title in favor of his brother Robert and was ordained the next year. Very shortly after, he was appointed bishop of Toulouse, but the pope agreed to Louis’s request to become a Franciscan first.”
“The Franciscan spirit pervaded Louis. “Jesus Christ is all my riches; he alone is sufficient for me,” Louis kept repeating. Even as a bishop he wore the Franciscan habit and sometimes begged. He assigned a friar to offer him correction—in public if necessary—and the friar did his job. . . .Louis set aside 75 percent of his income as bishop to feed the poor and maintain churches. Each day he fed 25 poor people at his table.” When he died at the age of 23, Louis was already considered a saint. He was canonized in 1317.
Whatever our state of life, we are called to live and die in love. We are called to follow Jesus and to become saints ourselves. So we can pray, St. Louis of Toulouse, pray for us.