Pope Francis Embraces a Modern Leper and the World is Drawn to its Knees
The moving encounter caught the attention of those in the square. The scenes of the tender embrace went viral.
Pope Francis kissed a modern day leper on Wednesday. The whole world is being drawn to its knees. I believe this a move of the Holy Spirit. I only pray that Christians will respond and seize the moment.Pope Francis, a man who moves in the Holy Spirit, responded to Jesus Christ on Wednesday. He left the pope mobile and embraced this man with the affection of a spiritual father. He kissed him with paternal tenderness. He recognized his beauty as a gift from God, the source of all beauty. He saw this man as the Father does and drew us to our knees. In so doing, he calls us all to conversion.
VATICAN CITY (Catholic Online) - On Wednesday, November 6, 2013, Pope Francis traveled through the crowd of the faithful gathered in St Peters square to hear his weekly catechesis. This is a tradition of the modern popes. Each, in their own manner and style, teach the Christian faithful on an aspect of living the Christian life.
The whole world paused in the face of an authentic witness of God's love and Mercy on Wednesday. The gates of hell were rattled. We all beheld the very heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ spoken in a language much more powerful than words.
Francis usually delivers a simple and popular exposition on living the Christian life. He is a pastoral pope, a man who speaks in simple words and prophetic action. On Wednesday, after his beautiful address, he followed his customary practice of driving through the crowd in an open pope- mobile.
This is an evangelical Catholic Pope. He is a man deeply in love with Jesus Christ, the Living Word - and deeply in love with the people whom Jesus loves. He speaks with words and actions. Like his namesake, he is a word walking, a living testimony to the prophetic meaning of the Christian message.
Pope Francis saw a man in the crowd who was severely disfigured by neurofibromatosis. This is a debilitating disease which has devastating effects. The effects can include intense pain and suffering, vision problems, learning impediments, cancerous lesions and severe disfigurement.
The physical effects can sometimes render those afflicted with such severe disfigurement that people recoil from even being around them. This reaction is much akin to the reaction people had toward lepers during the life of Francis of Assisi. He was among them. He hated lepers and avoided them at all cost.
However, during the movement of God's grace which occasioned his profound conversion and commission, Francis confronted a leper. He was moved by the love of God to embrace and kiss this leper. When he did, the leper was revealed as Jesus Christ.This changed Francis and spawned a movement which changed history.
Pope Francis kissed a modern day leper on Wednesday. The whole world is being drawn to its knees in response. I believe this a move of the Holy Spirit. I only pray that Christians will respond and seize the moment.Pope Francis, a man who moves in the Holy Spirit, responded to Jesus Christ on Wednesday.
He left the pope mobile and embraced this man with the affection of a spiritual father. He kissed him with the paternal tenderness of the heavenly Father. He recognized his beauty as a gift from God, the source of beauty. He saw this man as the Father does and drew us all to our knees. In so doing, he calls us all to conversion. He saw this man as one of those whom God fashioned in His Image. We do not see with the eyes of the Lord.
Our capacity to see true beauty is limited and fractured by sin.
The moving encounter caught the attention of those in the square. The scenes of the tender embrace went viral. News sources around the globe covered the event, with very little commentary. Instead, the photo footage spoke the mystery. Many in the main stream media were - finally - at a loss for words. It touched that place in all of us which needs to be reawakened. Our heart - Our soul - Our deepest center - this is a prophetic moment.
The successor of Peter, the Vicar of Jesus Christ, the man who took the name of the little poor man of Assisi, Pope Francis, kissed a modern day leper on Wednesday. The whole word is being drawn to its knees. I believe this a move of the Holy Spirit. I only pray that Christians will respond, and seize the moment.
This event is one more demonstrated that we are entering into a time of conversion, a moment of grace, for the whole word. Dear Lord, please help us to seize the moment and turn back to you. Help us to seize the moment to lead others back to you.
There is a saying attributed to St Francis of Assisi. Whether he actually said it or not matters little. It expressed the heart of his charism, I preach the Gospel at all times and sometimes I use words.
St. Francis became a living word from the Lord - through the witness of his life. Chapter 11 of the Legenda Maior, the testimony of St. Bonaventure, explains what Bonaventure called the spirit of prophecy in the life of Francis of Assisi.
Francis of Assisi was a word walking, a living letter of the Gospel. (2 Cor. 3:2) He lived the Christian vocation through example - and those who encountered him were drawn to Jesus. He invited others to follow the same pattern of life. I suggest that his namesake, the 265th successor of Peter, also named Francis, is following in his footsteps.
Are we hearing that message? Are we responding? Are we willing to be a prophetic sign?
The world is beginning to pay attention. A world which routinely looks aside when our youngest neighbors are killed every day through the evil of procured abortion - is beginning to see the implications and obligations of love, mercy and authentic solidarity.
This is a moment of grace. Are those who bear the name Christian ready to act?
When I read the 25th chapter of Matthews Gospel I am drawn to my knees by the words of Jesus, "I was hungry, and you gave me food; I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger and you welcomed me; I was naked and you gave me clothing; I was sick and you took care of me; I was in prison, and you visited me." (Matt. 25: 31-46)
I understand the question posed by his stunned disciples, "Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs." (Matthew 25.35-36) It was an extraordinary statement!
I have come to see there are so many faces of poverty. I am just beginning to learn to recognize the face of Jesus revealed in them all. Pope Francis is becoming my teacher. I am certainly not alone.
Have you ever considered the significance of the fact that the same Jesus who promised to be with us always also told us that the poor would be with us always? That is because they are connected.
Indeed, in a sense, they are one and the same - in a way that is revealed with the eyes of living faith.
"The poor you will always have with you; but you will not always have me" (Jesus, Matthew 26:11) "And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age." (Jesus, Matthew 28:20)
The face of Jesus is revealed in the face of the poor, for those with eyes to see. The word of Jesus is spoken through the poor, for those who cultivate the ears to hear Him asking for love. The cry of Jesus is heard in the cry of the poor, at least for those who stop to listen.
This is the deeper meaning behind the sobering scene recounting the last judgment recorded by the Evangelist Matthew in the 25th Chapter of his Gospel:
Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.
Then the righteous will answer him and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?' And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.
Those who love the poor - like Jesus loved the poor- are given as a gift and instruction manual for the rest of us. They are a sign of the kingdom, making it present in their wake. We have a Pope named Francis who is such a man. He teaches us in prophetic action.
I will never forget that visit to the Jail on Holy Thursday. As he washed the feet of those prisoners, he washed the feet of Jesus with an alabaster flask of ointment and tears. I asked in an article I wrote back then, whose feet did Pope Francis really wash?
I answered my own question in that article. He washed the feet of Jesus. I know, even some well intended folks were caught up in examining the rubrics. After all, this was Holy Thursday! Why did he wash the feet of women when the event commemorated the Lord calling the Apostles? The connection between the Lord's Supper and the Institution of the ministerial priesthood prompted such concern.
I wrote in that same article on the two streams of footwashing in Christian history. It was an effort to try to quell the growing animosity between the "camps" which arose over the Popes action. The one tradition, connected to the Last Supper and the Institution of the ministerial Priesthood, and the other, reflecting the Christian call to practice hospitality. The latter reflected the practice of footwashing which had become the custom at monastries and religious houses, where both men and women religious lived.There, footwashing was a sign of charity.
However, I suggest the Holy Spirit wanted us all to dig deeper and put aside controversy. That the action taken by Pope Francis was prophetic. We must all turn back to Jesus Christ and His mission.We need to open ourselves to this moment in the history of the Church.We are called to radical charity in imitation of Jesus Christ.That is the way that this culture will turn away from the sin and idolatry of this age - and turn toward the Cross.
Pope St Leo the Great once wrote of Jesus: He took the nature of a servant without stain of sin, enlarging our humanity without diminishing his divinity. He emptied himself; though invisible he made himself visible, though Creator and Lord of all things he chose to be one of us mortal men. Yet this was the condescension of compassion, not the loss of omnipotence. So he, who in the nature of God had created man, became in the nature of a servant, man himself.
God became the least of these. Will we? Will we allow the truth revealed in the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ to become our pattern for daily living? Will we cooperate with the grace of conversion and be emptied of ourselves for others? When we empty ourselves, He comes and takes up His residence within us.
Then, we can become His arms, embracing the world; His legs, still walking its dusty streets; and His Heart, still beating with the Divine Compassion manifested in Jesus Christ, the One who became the least of these in order to bring all of us into the full communion of Love. The Call we are witnessing is a call to return to Gospel Simplicity.
I believe we have been given a real gift from heaven in Pope Francis, just in the knick of time. He is another Francis for the Third Christian Millennium. God knows we desperately need such a witness. This pope chose the name Francis under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Once he did, that same Holy Spirit has been speaking to and through him. The world is enamored with the message. May the God of mercy use this moment for conversion. Francis of Assisi was a word walking. He lived the Christian life and vocation in a manner that was intended - through example- to invite others to follow the same pattern.
I suggest that his namesake, the 265th successor of Peter, also named Francis, is following in his footsteps. Are we hearing the message? This embrace of this modern leper by Pope Francis is a moment of grace. It is akin to the actions of the little poor man of Assisi. It is a prophetic moment.
May the loving Father, in the name of Jesus, and in the power of the Holy Spirit, bring about a spiritual movement of renewal like that which accompanied the first Francis. May the one whose embrace of a leper effected his own conversion and has come to symbolize the heart of the Gospel, draw us to repentance through his prayers and example.
May this beautiful action of love by Pope Francis, a new Francis for this age, draw the whole world back to God.
Please Lord, renew your Church. Then, through her vibrant witness of love, let the world of our age be drawn to the foot of the Cross where Love was fully revealed - and to the empty tomb where hope is made manifest and the meaning and end of life revealed in glory. Give all of us the courage to do what the moment requires. Amen.
© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2014
Respect for Women: That all cultures may respect the rights and dignity of women.
Vocations: That many young people may accept the Lordís invitation to consecrate their lives to proclaiming the Gospel.
Keywords: neurofibromatosis, leper, mercy, compassion, healing, st peters, Pope Francis, St Francis, Franciscan, prophecy, evangelism, conversion, preferential option, elephant man, Deacon Keith Fournier
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