BY Katie Altobellis
Though I am not Catholic and some of what he says has been a bit controversial, I like following Pope Francis and am interested to see what he will do next. All the humanitarian things he does lets me know he is a man who seeks to do what is on God’s heart.
Thousands of rare diseases affect many millions of folks every day and of course, there are no cures for many of them. I guess the first time I ever became aware of something I thought was disfiguring and disgusting, was when I read and saw pictures of Joseph Merrick, an Englishman who suffered from skin abnormalities. He was abandoned by his father and stepmother and eventually gained a “manager” who exhibited him across Europe. What a lonely existence not to be accepted by society and have no real friends, due to no fault of his own.
Recently, Pope Francis showed up at St. Peter’s Square. He singled out a man with a rare disease, a genetic nervous system disorder that is not contagious (not that the Pope knew that), that is characterized by tumors who has lived with this disorder since he was 15; he is now 53. Naturally, he has been shunned by society.
Riva met the Pope and was allowed to kiss his hand. Francis then pulled Riva toward him, embraced, kissed and prayed with him! Riva said afterward that this could not have lasted more than a minute and left him speechless. Of course, as with just about everything Francis does this immediately went viral.
I was moved by this display of unselfish self-sacrifice, compassion and love the Pope extended. I then thought, What’s the difference in this and what Jesus did for lepers, the blind men and the raising of the woman’s son in Nain (he touched a dead person’s coffin)?
Some folks know who they are in Christ; some do not. I pose this question to you: Loving Jesus as you do would you have kissed, embraced and loved this man as the Pope did? Think about it as we enter into this Christmas season and let us each reach out with the hands of our Savior.