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We are all lepers

Lepers of Molokai
If you know the life of St. Francis of Assisi, you can skip this first part. If you don't, he was a young man of what appeared to be joy: parties, lots of friends, women, wine and song: the 12th century version of a playboy.

He wanted something more, though. Despite all the fun, he knew he was missing something. He though going to war was the answer - he'd be a hero. That didn't work out well.

He was used to a life of luxury and fun. The people he knew were the "beautiful people" - dressed in fine cloths and had all the advantages.

Francis, in his search for whatever it was that he was missing, took to walking in the countryside near Assisi. That's when he saw the lepers. Oh, he knew about the lepers; everyone did. They were committed to staying outside the city walls, left to their grotesque disease, without any means of support - medical, financial, emotional. They were disgusting. Francis was rightly repelled.

But there was something about them...

One day, Francis came face to face with a leper. Imagine being in a dark alley, in a foreign place, faced by a huge man with a knife. That's the fear that Francis felt. More than than that, he was horrified, disgusted.

And then, Francis (for reasons that only God knows) embraced and kissed the leper. From then on, Francis' life took on a new tone - one that heard the music of God's voice.

On my way to work this morning, I saw a man waiting for the light to change so he could cross the street. He became impatient, and starting yelling and flailing his arms - as if he could make the lights change at this will. Outwardly, the man looked fine, but he is a leper.

I had to take my Dark-Haired Daughter in for her monthly blood draw this morning. She has to do this because of a medication she takes for bipolar disorder. She's a leper.

Last night, at my husband's soccer game, the father of one of his players showed up and caused a disturbance. That man too has bipolar disorder, and isn't taking care of himself. He's a leper.

One of my friends is studying nursing. She was working in the ER when a drunk driver was brought in and she had to care for him. She learned he had killed two people in a car accident, one of whom was a friend of hers. She did not want to care for this man - she wanted nothing more than for him to die. They are both lepers.

We are all lepers. There is something in all of us that repels, makes us disfigured from the image that God has for us, that makes us outcasts in His Kingdom. We choose things that make us ugly: anger, lust, alcohol, control, power, selfishness.

Unlike a person with leprosy, however, we can change. We can look at ourselves honestly and pray for the strength to become clean. We can see whatever it is that Francis saw in that leper and embrace it, draw strength from it, acknowledge it, and know that God loves us in our imperfections, but wants so much more for us.

Yes, we are all lepers, in need of aid, and God offers it to us in His Son. We are all lepers.

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