What will we say?
It is said that the only question we will have to answer when we leave our earthly existence is “What did you do with the gifts I gave you?”
This is a question that I have certainly pondered and prayed about. And when I think about the question, it brings to mind one of the most beloved saints, Francis of Assisi.
We see his statue often with birds and animals in many gardens, and the famous prayer attributed to him begins: “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.”
His feast day on Oct. 4 in the Anglican, Lutheran and Roman Catholic traditions and is often celebrated by blessing the animals in our lives.
Francis was born into a well-to-do merchant family in Assisi, Italy and during his early adulthood was a bit of a wild spirit. But one day he was moved to give away the proceeds of the day’s sales to a beggar, earning him a strong berating from his father.
Thus began Francis’ journey and his deep devotion to those impoverished by society. It would be a leper that would literally complete Francis’ transformation, as he was totally repulsed by these outcasts.
Then one day he met a leper on the road and was immediately moved to embrace and kiss the person; immediately all his fear and loathing left him.
I often think about Francis’ story in the context of today’s world and how some of us view others in our society with fear and loathing. These people may be homeless and downtrodden, or of a different skin color, or speak a different language, or see and name God differently from the way we do.
In many ways they are the shadow images of who we are, and we seem to be frightened of them. But they are created in God’s image just as we are and they breathe the same air that we do and suffer the same illnesses and tribulations that we do … so why do we see them as “not one of us”?
Like Francis, we are all called to seek and serve those who are living on the margins of society and who need to experience God’s Love.
Many of these people seem invisible to us as they live apart from the mainstream, many are doing the best they can to be self sufficient yet continue to fall short economically, many have physical or emotional issues that tend to disqualify them from meaningful employment, and, yes, some of them battle their own demons of chemical addiction.
They are the outcasts of today and they are a part of God’s creation and, in many ways, how we serve them is how we will answer the question: “What did you do with the gifts I gave you?”