One day Francis realized that he was ready to embrace the leper, the one from whom he had fled as the most repugnant of outcasts. Small wonder that soon after this embrace, Francis will hide in a cave and cry his heart out, grieving over his sins. In the leper he has come too close to the trauma of bitter self-recognition. The reality to be avoided at all costs has become the scene of encounter, healing and freedom. In the leper Francis embraces the repugnant other, his true wounded self and the Lord Jesus.
How will I notice the poor one I am liable to miss? Who is the outcast, ignored or forgotten- in my world, in my prayer, in my heart, in my mirror- the part of me I want to keep at a safe distance. Who is this begging at the doorway, longing to enter?
Christ Jesus is coming to us as the sore-covered beggar, bearing the wounds of his own cruel passion, the wounds of our many passions. Our willingness to consume him in the Eucharist each morning means that we are coming close to the pain and sadness and fear that no longer have any power over us, for our exposure to his mercy makes us free.
Love does cast out fear; God’s love for us casts out our fear. We simply have to fall backwards into him, into that confidence, that knowledge that we are beloved ones of God. This is the work of trusting, choosing to believe, to believe beyond believing. God is with us, on our side; we need not run away.