Departing from the story of his encounter with the leper, Saint Francis of Assisi is offered as a paradigm of Christian health care and charitable service. In this grace-filled moment, Francis testifies that what had previously seemed bitter to him “was turned into sweetness of soul and body.” He was changed by the encounter and awakened to his capacity to love. Francis’s story witnesses to the divine initiative in calling us to charity, of recognizing the presence of Christ in those who suffer, and of acknowledging that our service of others is a privileged space in which the mystery of God becomes a reality. Weaved together with reflections from recent magisterial teachings, Francis’s experience teaches us that Christian charity can never be reduced to an ideology or the accomplishment of works but flows from a heart touched by God, converted to truth, and expanded by love.Summary: In speaking to those involved in the charitable mission of the Church, Pope Benedict XVI once spoke of the need for a formation of the heart through an “encounter with God in Christ which awakens their love and opens their spirits to others.” In this reflection, I offer Saint Francis of Assisi as a model of such formation, inspired by the celebrated moment of his encounter with the leper on the road: an encounter which witnesses to the primacy of God’s initiative in enabling us to love with His own love and see His presence in those we serve.
The Linacre Quarterly – SAGE
Published: May 1, 2018
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