It was an encounter with a leper, a creature that lived in the farthest margins of society that brought Francis his redemption and allowed him to first come in intimate contact with the God he had longed to know all his life.
His embrace of this poor man, loathsome and undesirable to the rest of the world, brought Francis face to face, not only with his own personal poverty and insignificance, but also with his utter dependence on God.
Mother Teresa always said: "We must love the poor, not because they remind us of Jesus. We must love the poor because they are Jesus". In Francis' encounter with the leper, we do not merely gain insight into the truth of Mother Teresa's words, but we also come face to face with one of the most sublime paradoxes of Christ's Incarnation.
The paradox of loving the poor is that when we come to their aid, it isn't really we who do something for them. In reality, it is they who do something for us. When we love and assist them, we aren’t only loving and assisting Christ. We are, in truth, really loving and assisting ourselves.
For when we immerse ourselves in the lives of the poor, the weak, and the needy, and we do everything in our power to save them from suffering and pain, we come to realize that it is really Christ who, in them, is saving and liberating us, from ourselves.
Teach us to find you in the poor, O Lord,
open our eyes to your presence,
in their weak and pained humanity,
in their cries for comfort and consolation,
in their agony, hunger, loneliness, and thirst.
Grant that we may never fail,
to see you in them,
they who are your dwelling places on earth;
that in doing so, we may come face to face,
with our own poverty, and in it
find our own redemption.