Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Living With Lepers

Blessed Francis, from the beginning of his conversion, the Lord aiding him, founded himself like a wise builder upon the rock: namely, the great humility and poverty of the Son of God, calling his Order that of the Friars Minor because of his great humility. From the beginning of the order he wished that the friars should live in leper houses to serve the sick, and there lay a foundation of holy humility.  For when gentle and simple folk came to the order, amid the other things which were announced to them, he tended to say that it was good for them to serve lepers and abide in their houses.  

So it was in the first Rule: “They are willing to have nothing under heaven except holy poverty, by this they may be fed by the Lord in this world with bodily and spiritual food, and in the life to come they will attain their heavenly inheritance.”  In this way he chose for himself and others a foundation on the greatest humility and poverty.  He might have chosen to have been a great prelate in the church of God, he chose and wished to be lowly, not only in the church of God, but also among his brethren.  For this lowliness, in his opinion and desire, was very great exaltation in the sight of God and man.
-Mirror of Perfection, Section IV, Chapter 44

Humility isn’t about seeing yourself as some invalid or monster.  Humility isn’t lying about yourself to seem more-modest-than-thou.  Humility is putting oneself in situations that lowers your social standing.  Francis wanted his Brothers Minor to live with lepers partly to assist the lepers, and to give them a better context in which to live.  But mostly he did it because he realized that if they lived with lepers, they would also be outcast from normal society.

Isn’t that the way of it?  If you hang around with the outcasts, the outcastness rubs off on you.  In the Mosaic Law, that was a bad thing.  You didn’t want to be separated from society, to be declared “unclean”.  But Jesus had parties with the outcast, and welcomed their attention.  He touched the leper who was not supposed to be touched.  He forgave those who should not be forgiven. And he loved those who should not be loved.

This is the true way of humility: loving those who “should” not be loved.  Surrendering your own reputation and personal well being to do so.  This is the way of Jesus. 

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