To Love Like Jesus

In anticipation of our upcoming trip to Italy, I’ve been reflecting on my last trip to Italy in 2019 with PWC. That was actually my first-ever international travel adventure. I packed like a first-time tourist, not sure what to expect along the way. I was amazed by the grandeur of the Vatican, captivated by the ancient art and architecture in Rome, and charmed by the hillside vineyards and olive trees filling the landscape on our journeys. But all that pales in comparison to the simplicity and holiness I found in Assisi.

From the moment I set my eyes on the ancient city on the hill, I yearned to learn more about it. Being a Protestant girl, I had little experience with Catholic saints, so this was my first introduction to St. Francis of Assisi. I fell in love with the unassuming nature of Francis – his simple faith in God, his respect for all of Creation, and his earnest desire to live his life in imitation of Christ.

I remember our tour in the Basilica of St. Francis, gazing at the tattered robe of Francis, and weeping. Outwardly, it just looked like fragments of old fabric stitched together haphazardly into a modest garment. Inwardly, however, I saw the heart of the man who wore it – one who lived a life of complete poverty and sacrifice, in submission to God and in service to others, loving as Christ loved him.

Could I live like that…love like that…I wondered, as I gazed at the worn-out old tunic? I stayed awhile there, praying…Lord, help me to live like Francis lived – in imitation of Christ. You have shown us what love looks like. You have told us how to live and love like You:

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:12-13)

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. (Philippians 2:3)

The Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)

Our marching orders are to love one another as You love us. But Lord, it is not easy to love like You. Your love went to the Cross. Your love requires sacrifice. You know we cannot love like this – at least not in our own power.

But You provided the way for us to love like You – YOU. And so, we too must lay down our own life – die to self – and CHOOSE to love. Even when it seems impossible. And if we can do that, Your Spirit releases power within us to let You love through us. How else could we love the unlovable? The stranger? The enemy who hates us? Thank You, Jesus, for being the way of love – the only way to love like You.

No matter our circumstances, we have been graced with the capacity to give love, receive love, and give love again. God, You created us for it. You command us to do it. And You provided the way for us through it. Help us to live as Your children – like our brother, Francis, in imitation of Christ. Help us to love like Jesus, in sacrifice and service to others – from a place of mercy and in humble submission to Your will.

Prayer of St. Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

Where there is sadness, joy.

O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek

To be consoled, as to console;

To be understood as to understand;

To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

It is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.