To Love Up Close and Personal

The late Bishop Fulton J. Sheen once was asked to describe his “Most Inspiring Moment.” This is what he wrote:

“A few years ago, I visited a leper colony in Africa. I brought with me 500 small silver crucifixes to give to each victim of the dread disease. The first leper who came up to me had only a stump of his left arm. The right arm and hand were full of those telltale open sores of leprosy. I held the crucifix a few inches above that hand and let it drop into the palm.

“At that moment, there were 501 lepers in the camp, and the most diseased of them all was me. I had taken the symbol of redemption, of Divine Love for man, of the humiliation of Divinity into our fallen human nature and had refused to identify myself with all that that symbol implied. It is so easy to love humanity in general but so difficult sometimes to love a man.

“It is easy to help the lepers, but when one meets a specific leper, then a special effort is required. Seeing myself in the full shame of refusing to identify with this victim, I looked at the crucifix in the putrid mass of his hand and realized that I, too, must become one with suffering humanity. Then I pressed my hand to his hand with the symbol of love between us and continued to do it for the other 499.”

“Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit,” Jesus said on the cross. “Whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be My disciple,” Jesus is saying to us now. God is waiting to receive us in love. If you want to be the uniquely beautiful person God made you to be, then renounce your ego-centered, fear-driven, achievement-oriented self and follow Me. If you’re going to make your life worthwhile, take up your cross and follow me. In other words, Consent to love up close and personal.

Lord, we don’t have any problem loving and giving sympathy and compassion from a distance… a comfortable safe distance… but now we realize you are really asking us to take the leper by the hand and in the name of Christ sharing the love and mercy of our heavenly Father. Help us do exactly that here and everywhere for all your people. Amen.

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