St. Francis of Assisi, it is said, found the sight and smell of lepers repulsive. Normally, he could spot them from afar and give them a wide berth. Yet on one occasion, Francis came upon a roadside leper and something entirely different occurred.
Compassion rose from within and Francis felt compelled to get off his horse, offer the leper alms, and embrace the wretched soul—sores, smells and all—even giving him a holy kiss!
Climbing back into his saddle, Francis turned to bid the leper adieu, only to discover he was alone in an empty field. In that moment, he awoke to the conviction that he had encountered Christ himself in leprous disguise. His heart and ministry were altered forever. Francis became a channel of God's love to the poor and the diseased, for in and among them, he had seen the kingdom and the face of God.
Fast-forward to the present. I'm not so interested in asking, "Who are the lepers of today?" This is already well-traveled territory.
My interest is more challenging. ...1