Francis’ feelings of guilt and responsibility only underscored his profound sense of “this is not the way it should be.” His resolve to become what he abhorred—poor, homeless, and ignored—was not so much self-sacrifice on his part as it was a movement of his soul to forge truly human bonds with people and with a fate that his middle-class status had given him the freedom to overlook.
St. Paul wrote to the Romans that “God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us so that God's righteousness would be produced in us (Rom. 1)” In a similar way, Francis, who did not know poverty, became poor for the poor, so that God’s mercy would be manifest in him.
Discerning how, in the current crisis of health and health care, you and I can become experiences of God’s mercy for others, begins in our hearts. What are our strongest feelings, our deepest fears, and our highest hopes? How do you make sense out of those feelings? Do we really understand their pain?” We are called, like Francis, to forge truly human bonds with people, whose lives are troubled or are feeling overwhelmed by the uncertainty of an invisible virus whose progress can only be traced in its effects.
The distance between “Isn’t it awful” and “I can make a difference” is not always short. But it is a distance that Francis travelled and it is one that you and I can also cross. “The Lord gave me brothers.” These words from St. Francis’ Testament are a reminder that we don’t have to travel alone.
St. Francis had no road map for where he should be going. But he was not indifferent to what was happening in his world. He followed his heart and in doing so discovered anew the heart of God.
Discernment comes when we sense that what we want and what God wants are aligned. When we decide to act, decide what we can do and make the intention to do it, we realize, perhaps to our own surprise, that we are part of God’s loving presence in a world turned upside down by a disease that has changed our daily lives in ways we could not have imagined.