Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: October 7, 2019

It has been written that St. Francis felt a disdain for lepers, like many of his day, and would avoid them at all costs. But, one day, Francis was riding his horse alone in the countryside when he caught sight of a leper walking toward him. Francis’ instinct was to move to the other side to avoid contact but instead, he rode directly toward the leper with parts of his face and hands eaten away by this dreaded disease. Francis dismounted his horse and warmly embraced the man, kissing the leper on his lips.

Francis writes, “When I was in sin, the sight of lepers nauseated me beyond measure; but then God himself led me into their company, and I had pity on them. When I had once become acquainted with them, what had previously nauseated me became a source of physical consolation for me. After that I did not wait long before leaving the world.”  Francis eventually came to realize that he had actually embraced none other than his Lord, Jesus Christ!

I wonder if this is how many of us feel when we encounter the worst of society? I wonder if, as we walk in Center City, we – deep down where we don’t like to admit it – have contempt for the poor and the person experiencing homelessness? I wonder, when I announced this past Sunday that we would be working with Montgomery County to provide a safe home for the rejected LGBTQ and add 35 emergency shelter beds, too, many who heard it thought to themselves, ‘Really? Why help them?’ I wonder if any of us see the ‘thems’ of the world, so easily rejected, ever as the ‘us’?

I know the sting of rejection. I have been ridiculed and scorned. I have been the object of someone else’s mean-spirited fun. I have been bullied and know the feeling all to well as the outsider. I am a single paycheck away from being homeless. I am them; I have never known the joy and comfort of being sided with the ‘us’. 

Francis soon found himself living with lepers and caring for them. We care for the poor, the marginalized and the homeless. We go where they are and tell them we are them. In doing so, freely and with sacrifice of time, talent and treasure, we meet our Christ and know His love.

St. Francis’s chance meeting and care of the leper was the best preparation he could have had for the founding of a new order in the Church, whose highest ideal was to serve the poorest of the poor.

How many times have you been asked to help and ended up rejecting your Christ in the flesh?


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