Franciscan Friar, and biographer, Thomas of Celano, tells of the life of St. Francis, the great reformer of The Church. He speaks about the man from Assisi who encountered Christ in the lepers. This unique encounter along the road manifested in Francis’ conversion from a life of riches and sin, to a life of poverty and saintliness.
“Among all the awful miseries of this world Francis had a natural horror of lepers, and one day as he was riding his horse near Assisi he met a leper on the road. He felt terrified and revolted, but not wanting to transgress God’s command and break the sacrament of His word, he dismounted from his horse and ran to kiss him. As the leper stretched out his hand, expecting something, he received both money and a kiss. Francis immediately mounted his horse and although the field was wide open, without any obstructions, when he looked around he could not see the leper anywhere.”
And in another tale by Leo Tolstoy, entitled, “Where Love is, God Is,” also known as “The Shoemaker’s Dream.” The Shoemaker wanted so much to have Christ visit his home during the Christmas season. He felt certain that he would know Him when He came. He was visited by all of his neighbors – a young man, a poor woman and her baby, and a boy street urchin. All were invited into his home, and/or offered words of encouragement. Complaining to God that he wasn’t visited as promised by Him, God showed the Cobbler all those that he saw that day, and so realized that the Christ Child had indeed visited him three times that day.
Shari Broyer in a modern day take-off of the above comparable stories – Jesus on a Park Bench- A Christmas Story, shares a similar tale how a divorced, lonely, unemployed, judgmental, bitter, and almost homeless woman through an encounter with a mysterious stranger on a park bench encounters the risen Lord at Christmas time. Although her circumstances remain constant, this encounter changes and transforms her life of sorrow into a life of gratitude, and joy!
Ms. Broyer ends with “Verily, I say unto you: In as much as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” KJV, Matthew 25:40
A charming and lovely story to warm your hearts in this Advent season, and one that compels you to think of all the “Christs” that you might encounter along your own path to Christmas.