Today many of us struggle with the same issues as did the pre-converted Francis, with a pampered life and a mediocre and dying faith. We know that our faith calls us to work for social justice and that this demand is non-negotiable. We know too, as somebody once put it with a succinctness that is praiseworthy, that strength without compassion is violence; that compassion without justice is weakness; that justice without love is Marxism; and that love without justice is baloney! What we often don't know is that the preferential option of the poor is the cure for our mediocre and dying faith. We must kiss the leper.

Simply put, if we touch the poor we touch Christ. In this way, touching the poor can be a functional substitute for prayer and, given the power of Western culture today, we often need this substitute. . . .

Thus, like Francis, we need to get off our horses and kiss the leper. If we do, something will snap, we will see our pampered lives for what they are, and God and love will break into our lives in such a way that we will never be the same again.

Ronald Rolheiser, The Shattered Lantern