Click-click-click. The man came down the road with his clapper, warning others to shun him. His face was disfigured by the lumpy excrescences and open sores of leprosy, his smell was foetid. He was an outcast – yet the young gentleman who came by on horseback paused, dismounted, and kissed the leper. He had overcome his disgust at this most alarming of diseases and recognised the presence of Christ in that distorted face. It had been a moment of decision, and Francis would never be the same again.
Yes, the leper was disgusting, and with good reason. It seems that disgust has the office of warning us away from potential danger. We associate it with faeces, vomit, dead bodies, rotting meat, evident signs of communicable disease and a whole range of connected behaviour. Francis was prepared to stifle this deep protective instinct as a sign of his radical choice.
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