Soon after Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) turned his back on his life of wealth and chose to live a life of poverty and simplicity he encountered a man with leprosy outside of the city. We would expect he stopped to see if he could care for his needs. However, that was not the case. The story is told that as Francis saw the man, he averted his eyes, walked around him, and completely avoided any contact.
He had very recently, swore allegiance not only to live a life of poverty and a life of simplicity, but to love and care for others. To wholeheartedly follow the way of Jesus and to reveal the Jesus Way in all facets of life. To be committed beyond what was “required.” But somehow, he avoided the possibility as soon as it arrived.
But the story doesn’t end there. After wrestling within himself, with his actions (and lack thereof), Francis turned around, went back to the leper, embraced him in the name of Jesus, saw to his needs, and then continued on his way.
After a taking a few steps away from the leper, Francis turned to see him again, but the man had disappeared. He was nowhere to be found. For the rest of his life, as he would retell the story, Francis was convinced that the man he had embraced and cared for and almost missed, was Jesus.
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go and visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did for me’” (Matthew 26:37-40).
Glory to God!