November 2002 – On Goodness

Focus on the spirituality of St. Francis

November 2002

Dear Friend of Saint Francis:

May the Lord give you Peace.

Peace…and all Goodness. Pax et bonum is the motto of secular Franciscans. Last month, we considered the subject of Peace. Now, it is time to contemplate Goodness…with a capital “G.” Good is often contrasted against evil and is, therefore, seen as a line of moral defense against the perils of life without virtue. But Good is much more than that. It is a very positive force that is at once creative and nourishing. It is, after all, only one letter away from God.

“Good” is a word that recurs many times in the Bible. In the New Revised Standard Version, there are 743 verses that contain it. Even the word love does not occur as frequently. Perhaps the most important reference for our purposes comes in the Gospels of Mark and Luke. It occurs in the context of an encounter between Jesus and a rich young man in which the seeker of eternal life addresses Jesus as “Good Master.” Our Lord responds by saying: “Why do you call me Good? No one is Good but God alone.” This answer surprises us because we commonly use this epithet to describe all manner of virtuous people. Jesus understood just how vast in scope the concept of Goodness is.

In his book The Soul’s Journey into God, the great Franciscan theologian Saint Bonaventure recalled: “Dionysius, following Christ, says that the Good is God’s primary name.” This was a matter of enormous interest to Saint Bonaventure. From the contemplation of God as Being, he turned to the contemplation of the Trinity as self-diffusive Good.

Saint Francis was overwhelmed by the sheer Goodness of God. He found riches that he could not even imagine, let alone desire, along the path of Poverty, the path he chose for his spiritual journey and continuous conversion. He equated God with all Goodness because he saw God in his Being as authentic Goodness and His gifts as Infinity overflowing with Goodness. In The Testament of Saint Francis, written shortly before his death, we find these words: “For Him who endured so many things for us, conferred all Good things and Who will confer them in the future, let every creature, which is in Heaven, on earth and in the abyss return praise, glory, honor, and blessing to God, since He Himself is our virtue and strength, Who is the only Good, the only Most High, the only Almighty, admirable, glorious and Who alone is holy, worthy of praise and blest throughout the infinite ages of ages. Amen.”

May Simplicity, Gratitude and Generosity guide you on your journey. May you be filled with the Peace and Goodness of the Lord. May Joy and Serenity be your constant companions.