The Francis Effect
When he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him.We don't do this very much. Not because we fear the scorn of Richard Dawkins that the sick are not healed, but because we lack compassion and kindness.
And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.
And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.
And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them. (Mt 8:1-4)
We judge by appearances. O, we can watch John Hurt slobber about as the Elephant Man and shed a sympathetic tear, but we wouldn't invite him to dinner. Well, we might now, but only because he's become a celebrity and there's cachet in the association.
Visiting St Peter's Square, most of us would shun this poor wretch because of his Elephant Man-like appearance. We would certainly decline to share a communion chalice with him, for fear of some unknown contagion. But, like his namesake St Francis of Assisi, this Pope abjures his royal palace, lives in a guest house with his brothers, and prays deeply – quite movingly – for a modern-day leper. Indeed, the Pope kissed the carbuncles upon this poor man's deformed forehead.
Humility and holiness in action.
It is Christ-like.
Some will say it is prophetic – a sign of profound faith in a superficial world of beautiful people and bright young things. But it is simply what we all ought to be doing – manifesting the self-emptying love of Christ and transcending the narrow confines of the world.
Love does not solve life's problems: it helps us to cope with them. It brings perspective and confers order. Faith working through love is creative and redemptive. Pope Francis acts for that poor distorted being because he has an appreciation of that being. Such love is the fruit of God's presence within us.