20th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Call of the Canticle

st francis
Canticle of Creation

Click Here For This Week’s Readings.

It’s the time of year when the Gardening Geeks know abundance. We give vegetables to our friends, our local food pantry, we freeze some for later, and we still eat well.

In light of this week’s first reading, in which Wisdom has prepared her table and set a feast, it brings to mind a passage from Saint Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of Creation: “Be praised, my Lord, for Sister Earth, our Mother, who nourishes us and sustains us, bringing forth fruits and vegetables of many kinds, and flowers of many colors.” And now especially, the Earth calls to us, “Come! Eat of my food.”

There is an interesting contrast here in the first two readings, between Wisdom calling us to “eat of my food, and drink of the wine I have mixed!” and Saint Paul warning us, “do not get drunk on wine, in which lies debauchery.”

We are beings both physical and spiritual, and our great challenge in this life is to find the right balance between the two. The temptation, I think, is to glut ourselves on physical nourishment while starving ourselves of necessary spiritual sustenance. Saint Paul reminds us to keep to the proper portions of each.

It is in Christ that these elements, the physical and the spiritual, are united. “For my flesh is true food,” He tells us, “and my blood is true drink.” It is the very core of our faith that the most basic of our earthly foods, “fruit of the earth and work of human hands … will become for us the bread of life.”

In the person of Jesus we have the Creator coming into the world He created. He became what we are, as Saint Irenaeus put it, so that we might become what He is. And because of that, all of our human experience takes on a quality of the sacred. In the Sacraments, ordinary signs convey extraordinary graces. Through the Incarnation of Christ, every aspect of our human existence is made sacred. Saint Francis understood this perhaps better than anyone, as his Canticle attests — all Creation is a gift from God and a reason to sing His praise.