This morning was the first morning in six months where I felt I could relax a little. I had time to breathe and potter around and go back to bed with tea and breakfast and read some. A large double commission is now delivered – and I will blog about this after the dedication and blessing – and a few other smaller ones are also complete and delivered. What I have ahead is pressing but for today I am taking some space to just be as I found myself beginning to show signs of exhaustion last week. For a practicing Christian this means they are doing things from their own strength and not depending on God. The only solution is not to run to the GP for drugs, but to get back to regular scripture and prayer and contemplation. I had let this slip in the past few weeks as the deadline approached and I was working most days through to three and four in the morning.
So after my Franciscan Office where I demanded a few things of the Boss, such as a return of my energy and my joy, which He is always willing to give though today on the prerequisite I follow His direction and not my own and endeavour to return to this way of being as a habit, I sat down to read some of Il Fiorette of St Francis.
Today I went back over the story of his healing of a bad tempered leper. This uncouth man was in the lazar house and bedevilling the monks who were assiduously trying their best to help him but he drove them to such despair that they went to St. Francis who was around at the time. He went in and wished the poor man peace but the response was one of anger, “How can I be at peace when God has given me this stinking body and constant pain?” St Francis listened quietly and asked him what the man would have him do. The man wanted St. Francis to wash him, to wash the smell off his body.
So St. Francis washed as another brother poured water over the rotten flesh and the leprosy began to be cured. The man, seeing what was taking place, broke down in tears of remorse and cried for his previous bad behaviour. He cried for two weeks in repentance and after St. Francis had left the monastery to travel the man later died from another illness. However, his soul sought out St. Francis and blessed him for all he had done to save his soul which was now on its way to the Kingdom.
How I love these stories, these Little Flowers of St. Francis and the brothers. You can take them literally or metaphorically- it does not matter. What matters is the truth behind them. What matters is the care St. Francis took over the souls of those with whom he came into contact. He did not spend his days trying to help people get on in the world or better themselves. He had already made his choice for the Kingdom of God, not this world. He had relinquished everything worldly: wealth, the study of books, possessions, ambition, desire and more. He kept his prayers, thoughts and mind continually on God and received everything he needed for his life and his work for Christ.
His ability to heal the leper is something we can transpose into our own lives. We, too can heal our own leprosy and that of others. We are able to do this if we love enough and believe enough.
It is down to choosing this world or the next, as the aim of our lives. We choose this one and we become bound to it and the demands of it, the stress, the lack of freedom and the ultimate senselessness which we may see when something happens to change our perspective. This is our leprosy and sometimes we can see it written on people’s faces – there is a sense of needing to impress the right people and to ignore those who we think have little to contribute to where we think we should be going.
If we view others in this way then we have the class system, the pecking order, the haves and have-nots, the underclass and the well-to-do. It is all illusion.
When we see people as souls then there is a change in attitude. You see beauty in everyone, no matter who they are, no matter how they treat you, no matter what they have done in life. St. Francis understood this perfectly. He could heal the leper because he loved him and was concerned for the man’s soul. He listened to him without judgement, ministered to him and then healed him. His love and openness saved this man’s soul and helped it on its way.
We have opportunities to help each others souls every single day at every single moment. When you look down on someone know immediately you have lost an opportunity to heal both yourself and the other. No matter, try again the next time, and keep trying to love. Take no notice of what others think of you and your increasing collection of odd friends, you may even learn how to love your own sins and realise they are not so bad after all, in fact they are what make you human and approachable in the first place. There are many hidden consolations in such work, unlooked for blessings you could not even have imagined to exist when you choose to walk this way.
The Kingdom of God rules.