Today the Church celebrates the memorial of St. Bonaventure. Bonaventure was an Italian saint who lived from 1221 -1274. He was the Minister General of the Franciscan Order for 17 years and eventually became a Bishop and a Cardinal.
In addition to his excellent organizational and administrative skills, he was a gifted theologian and mystic writer. In 1263, he wrote the official biography of the Life of St. Francis. Mostly everything we know about the life of St. Francis comes from this biography. As such, St. Bonaventure is often referred to as the secondary founder of the Franciscans.
300 years after his death, he was declared a Doctor of the Church. In this context, “Doctor” has nothing to do with medical expertise. “Doctor” means “exemplar and teacher”. A doctor is a person who has made a significant contribution to Christian teaching. Writings, preaching and teachings are so profound and insightful that they are considered relevant to Christians of any age in the Church.
Furthermore, Bonaventure has been given the title “Seraphic Doctor”. A seraph is one of the highest-ranking angels that stands before God. Therefore, this term refers to the soaring, high level mysticism contained in Bonaventure’s writings and teachings.
I would like to focus on one of Bonaventure’s lofty insights that is based on this passage from today’s Gospel: “All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him”.
Jesus is saying that by knowing him, we come to know the Father. In other words, through Jesus, we come to experience the totality, the completeness and the entirety of God himself. This is the gift that Jesus brings to humanity. Through Jesus, we have direct access to the divine. That’s the reason Bonaventure wrote these remarks in Journey of the Mind to God: “Christ is both the way and the door”.
For Bonaventure, Jesus was the center of everything: his teaching, his administration, his writing. In fact, Jesus became the center of his very life. Bonaventure only had one love! That was Jesus Christ! This lofty and angelic insight can still inspire us today.
Each of us this afternoon is invited to reflect on this question: Is Jesus the center of my everything?
Bishop Robert Baron puts it this way: “Everyone of us has something that we consider greatest. Perhaps, it is money, material things, power, the esteem of others, our country, our political party, our ethnic identity. Perhaps, it is our family, our children, our spouse.
Now mind you all these things are good. However, when we place any of them in the absolute centre of gravity, things go awry. When we make any of them our ultimate or final good, our spiritual life goes haywire. When we attach ourselves to any of them with absolute tenacity, our lives will fall apart.
Jesus is not saying we should hate our family, our country or our wealth, but rather, that we should detach ourselves from them lest they become our idols. If we try to be Jesus’ disciples and try to do his work while we are stuck to any number of attachments, we will fail”.
Today, we are encouraged to adopt St. Bonaventure as a spiritual role model by considering these questions: As I examine my family roles, my family relationships, my job, my leisure activities, my community involvement, is it evident that Jesus is the priority in my life? Do my thoughts, words and actions reveal that Jesus is supreme in my life? How deep is my love for Jesus?
Although St. Bonaventure lived more than 700 years ago, and although he never wrote an email, sent a text, talked on the phone, or drove a car, he has an important and relevant message for us this afternoon.
During this Eucharist, Jesus is offering once again to be the center of gravity of our lives. May God help us to imitate the example of St. Bonaventure and say “yes” to that invitation today.
Deacon Roland Muzzatti
July 15, 2020