When Francis of Assisi lay dying on October 3rd, 1226, his final act of faith was focused on an act of humility. He commanded his friars to strip him naked and lay him on the bare earth so that he might return to God as he came into the world. In effect, this was the final sermon preached by a man who strove to be “another Christ” – living in imitation of Jesus who was chaste, obedient and poor.
Francis’ spiritual life focused on two specific events in the life of Jesus Christ: the Incarnation and the Crucifixion. The fact that God humbled himself to become one among us in all things but sin filled Francis with wonder. Our Lord’s choice to die so that we may live in the fullness of life was beyond his comprehension. It also compelled Francis to seek the face of Christ in every part of creation – especially in the poor, the outcast, the sick and those who did not know of the love of God.
While St. Francis of Assisi is often characterized by his love of animals, it is important to remember he left this impression because he saw the face of God the Creator in every living thing. In his Canticle of the Creatures, Francis expresses his love of every dimension of human life because it is a gift of God. He wanted us to appreciate this gift and discover we are loved by a God who will never leave us and who surrounds us with his blessings each and every day.
As a young man Francis had a great fear of lepers and avoided them at all costs. That changed when Francis finally allowed the voice of God to create space in his heart. After the transformation, Francis encountered a leper on the road and instead of running away, he embraced the leper and kissed him. From that moment on the love of God filled his heart and the desire to serve God fully and completely never left him.
At Cross Catholic Outreach we, like Francis, seek to embrace those considered the “lepers” or outcasts of the world – the poorest of the poor who are pushed to the sides of society and thought unfit for the attention of society. When we come to see and recognize the face of the Incarnate Christ in the faces of our poorest sisters and brothers then we too will be set free from seeing the world as it is and allow ourselves to experience the world as it can be through the grace of God.
-Fr. Ron Mrozinski