Before they ask me, I am already willing to do it. This is
how St. Francis of Assisi described his approach to obedience.
Before they ask me, l am already willing to do it also summarizes
the Little Poor Man's approach to the exercise of all the virtues.
Whenever an opportunity arose to resemble Christ more closely,
Francis was always willing and ready. Before they ask me, I am
already willing to do it — this is the key to Franciscan
WILLINGNESS was the hallmark of the life of the
Saint from Assisi. Beggars asking for alms knew Francis would be
willing to give. Friars seeking direction, pardon or consolation
were certain that their Seraphic Father would willingly fulfill
their needs. Even animals sensed that the Little Poor Man was a
friend who would willingly bestow on them both affection and
St. Francis patterned his WILLINGNESS on that
of his Divine Master. Even a cursory reading of the Gospels reveals
the WILLINGNESS of Jesus to help, to heal, to make
God's merciful love accessible to everyone. A leper declares:
Lord, if You will, You can make me clean. Jesus responds: I will it;
be clean. (Matt. 8:2-3) A Roman centurion implores a cure for
his ailing servant. Our Lord replies, I will come and heal him.
(Matt. 8:6-7) Jesus' WILLINGNESS to carry out His
Father's redemptive plan from the first moment of the Incarnation is
celebrated by the author of the Letter to the Hebrews: On coming
into this world, He said: "As it is written of Me in the head of
the book, come to do Your Will, 0 God!'" (cf. Hebrews 10:5-7)
It is little wonder that Francis, Christ's faithful follower, strove
to imitate the WILLINGNESS of his Lord in every
area of his life.
There is a joy which springs from meeting a willing person,
someone ready to give, to assist, or to accompany. That is what
people experienced when they encountered St. Francis. The
WILLINGNESS which he cultivated readied him for the evangelical
adventure of daily life with all its challenges, problems,
opportunities and surprises. It enabled Francis to break down
barriers and build bridges between people. It brought Gospel
freshness to very ordinary situations and kept him always on the
lookout for ways to put God's love into action and bring God's love
into the lives of those he met.
The dictionary definition of WILLINGNESS offers
a surprisingly accurate sketch of the Seraphic Patriarch: having
a mind favorably disposed; not adverse; desirous; ready; doing
without reluctance, voluntarily, cheerfully. It likewise offers
a good examination of conscience as to how fully we are cultivating
a spirit of WILLINGNESS, a virtue which helps build
strong families and united communities. When it springs from willing
minds and willing hearts, WILLINGNESS enables us
not only to accept suffering but also to go forward carrying the
Cross with a ready spirit.
To have a willing spirit, one needs to have a loving heart, a heart
filled, first of all, with love for our Lord. Increased love makes
WILLINGNESS increase. And when that happens, not
only are we willing, we are ready for what God has in store
for us in this moment, at this hour, on this day, in this life on
earth. Once St. Thomas Aquinas' sister asked him what she needed to
do to become a saint. He replied simply: Will it! Like St.
Francis, St. Thomas had learned the enduring lesson which
WILLINGNESS teaches: open your heart to God's will and
God's ways... and the Lord will do the rest!