“Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40).
If we followed only this verse in the Gospel, we would understand and be part of the kingdom of God. Francis spent his entire life after his conversion serving the least and the lowly. In doing so, he came to know Jesus. From the time he spontaneously embraced the leper, after so many years of being repulsed at the very sight of lepers on the outskirts of Assisi, he recognized the presence of Christ in everyone he met. Francis knew that he needed to confront something deep within his soul that was keeping him from following Christ. We might pause to ask what fear we need to confront. In his last written words to his brothers, his Testament, Francis said:
This is how God inspired me, Brother Francis, to embark upon a life of penance. When I was in sin, the sight of lepers nauseated me beyond measure; but then God himself led me into their company, and I had pity on them. When I had once become acquainted with them, what had previously nauseated me became a source of spiritual and physical consolation for me. After that I did not wait long before leaving the world.
—from the book Lent with St. Francis: Daily Reflections by Diane M. Houdek