This week remarkable images circulated the web. Pope Francis was photographed caressing, blessing and kissing the head of an extremely disfigured man. I am moved to tears when I revisit the photos of the encounter.

I don’t know the back story of this miserable man. If I am honest, I find it difficult contemplating whether I could touch let alone embrace this child of God. And yet Pope Francis reaches out and touches him.

He doesn’t qualify the man’s political leanings, whether he is working poor or lazy poor. He doesn’t verify his standing in the church. He simply embraces him. The leader of the Roman Catholic Church, becomes a servant and bestows the act of affection on a child of God.

In America’s religious/political arena, some advocate America getting back to the “godly” principles they believe were at the founding of this nation. Much of their rhetoric is harsh and inflexible. The focus seems to be winning elections so ideology can be constrained on its citizens.

The Pope has spoken about the direction he desires the church to head in. He oversees a politically charged organization. There are significant issues that the Catholic Church has to account for. And yet it is the Pope’s fearless examples of love that is garnering the most attention. Through his acts of love and servanthood he demonstrates his priorities. Following Jesus’s example of leading by being a servant, the Pope leads by being a servant as well.

I look at the grotesque man under the Ring of the Fisherman. I question whether I could embrace such a misfortunate man. I find myself stepping back in revulsion. Pope Francis, though his actions, encourages me to place love above fear. He exhorts me to look diligently for the image of God in each person and invites me to love.

This is how we love the world. This is how we change the world. Not through religious and political strong arming, but through fearless expressions of love.

Pope Francis’s gentle touch and loving kiss gently inspires me. “Yes you can my child. This is how you do it.”

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