McDonald’s invites us to ‘go large’ for an extra 40p. Supermarkets encourage us to ‘buy one and get one free’. Highly paid and underperforming chief executives demand outrageously inflated bonuses.
On 1 October, we celebrate the feast of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, the ‘Little Flower’. Her discreet sanctity went unnoticed by many of her fellow religious sisters. In her writings she describes her Little Way as ‘doing little things with great love’. Three days later, on 4 October, is the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi. His father was a wealthy cloth merchant who ensured that his son wore the finest clothes. Having tasted the good life, Francis underwent conversion. He stripped himself naked in public and returned his extravagant wardrobe to his father.
This public and provocative action was a powerful rejection of all his father stood for. The fancy outfits were the symbol of the fashionable and frivolous lifestyle he wished to walk away from.
In the time of Francis it was assumed that the earth’s resources were there to be exploited. Even then, however, managing with less was recognised as benefiting the poor and essential for human flourishing and spiritual health. But Francis took things further. He personalised the universe and its ecosystems. In speaking of Brother Sun and Sister Moon and literally preaching to the birds, he anticipated today’s concerns over climate change, the depletion of rainforests and endangered species.
The readings for Sunday 6 October reinforce the theme that less is more. Paul describes faith as an insignificant and fragile gift that can be fanned into a flame. In the Gospel, Jesus describes how faith as small as a mustard seed can produce a tree strong enough to dislodge the stubborn roots of the powerful mulberry tree.