The proverbial directive, X marks the spot, has led
generations of treasure hunters to their desired goal. For the early
Christians, X also marked the "spot" of their
encounter with the world's true Treasure — Jesus Christ. Most of
those early believers had at least a rudimentary knowledge of Greek,
and X was the first letter of the Greek word for
Christ. Wherever this X appeared — in Christian
art, writing, and even graffiti — the faithful knew that it
symbolized the treasure of excelling Love which is Christ the Lord.
X marked the spot of Francis of Assisi's
encounter with excelling Love. Praying before the crucifix in the
dim and dusty church of San Damiano, the merchant's son was granted
a life-changing experience of Christ. He heard the voice of the
Crucified bidding him to Go, repair My house. But Francis
also perceived in his heart the indescribable depths of the
excelling Love of Jesus for him and for all of sinful humanity. From
that time on, Francis was, so to speak, a "marked man," one whose
"life map" bore the unmistakable mark of Christ, crucified and
I will show you the more excellent way, St. Paul wrote
to the Corinthians. This is, of course, the way of charity, the way
of excelling Love. It was the way that St. Francis followed with
such ardent fidelity. But for Francis, the more excellent way
was not enough. He was a man made for the best and the most.
Francis' father trained him to be a most successful merchant.
Francis dreamed of being the bravest knight. So it is not surprising
that the Little Poor Man in his quest for Gospel perfection sought
not simply the more excellent way but the MOST
excellent way — Christ who said, I am the Way.
I have given you an example, our Lord said after He
washed the feet of His apostles at the Last Supper. This was the key
to how St. Francis read and lived the holy Gospel. Its pages were
replete with the example Christ gave in both the sublime and the
simple circumstances of life. As Jesus had done, so Francis would do
— that summarizes the Poor Man's mindset and "heart set." The entire
alphabet of virtues flows from Christ and leads back to Christ. So
anytime Francis was in doubt about what to do or how to act, he
simply looked to Christ, the exemplar of all virtue, and walked (or,
more often, ran) upon that most excellent way.
Does X mark the spot of our life encounter with
Christ? Are we allowing His excelling Love to touch and transform
us? Are we eager and willing to follow Him who is the most excellent
way? Do we look to Jesus Christ as the exemplar of virtue as we seek
to chart our life's course?
Unlike the maps of pirates and gold-seekers, the X
that marks the spot of encounter with Christ, the excelling Love,
never deceives or fades. In fact, the more we experience the great
Treasure who is Christ, the more our lives are marked by His love,
His virtue and His holiness. Then the beauty of what St. Augustine
exclaimed, and St. Francis showed forth, is revealed in us: We
have become Christ! And other treasure seekers are drawn to
that mysterious mark of excelling Love and holy virtue.