The sixth chapter of Luke tells about Jesus picking his disciples and setting the standard for what it means to be his disciples. It is the first thing any great leader does in a given situation: define the operating values which will govern the activity or endeavor at hand. What is being asked of the disciples is that they discard their accustomed ways of viewing the world, their ideas of right and wrong, likes and dislikes and see the world in a whole new topsy-turvy way that can only be understood through the eyes of an open intuitive, loving heart. Logic and our usual calculated ways of thinking strain to understand this new world view.
Jesus presents his standards in the Sermon on the Plain where he clearly states—contrary to what we all have been taught and led to expect by society—that it is the poor, the hungry, the sorrowful and the hated who are blessed. However, none us, if we believe what society thinks, wants to be included among this ragtag lot and so spend much of our lives avoiding being identified with such a group. Instead, we align ourselves with the very group who Jesus calls woe upon: the rich, the well fed, the happy and those with sterling reputations. The questions are 1) why do we do this, and 2) why does Jesus call us to do otherwise?
I think we identify with the rich and well off because we ourselves are afraid of being poor, hungry, sad and hated. We know that deep down inside there are aspects of each of us that feel want, loss and dislike—inner outcasts we all would rather avoid and deny.
Intuition is knowledge arising out of empathy and compassion
It takes an open, loving intuitive heart to understand why Jesus says the poor are blessed. Unlike rational, waking consciousness which separates and divides while delineating likes and dislikes, intuition knows the full spectrum of what it means to be human and sees it all as one. Unlike psychic ability, intuition is a form of profound awareness about another person that arises out of empathy and compassion. When I see someone through an intuitive heart I understand this person is no different from me, and is actually part of me and I am part of her or him in an interconnected, mystical universe. Therefore the intuitive heart sees the other, no matter how strange, awful, disgusting, fearsome, or loathsome as not only someone out there but as someone representing an aspect of myself which needs accepting. When I can accept that in myself, I can accept it in others.
Acting intuitively means reaching out to the outcasts in our own selves and in our neighborhoods
And this is why I believe St. Francis’ defining moment on his spiritual journey was the embracing of the leper. Lepers represented to him everything he feared and loathed. Embracing the leper meant dissolving all that separated him from his own deepest Self and from a group he had previously avoided. People who seriously embark on a spiritual journey at some point must drop their conventional thinking, see the world in a new, intuitive way, and embrace their own leper in order to be at one with their deeper Self and others. Reaching out to and identifying with the poor, bereaved and oppressed are ways to embrace the feared lepers in our own selves. These outcasts hold the key to our own transformation on the spiritual journey