February 15, 2015 - 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church
By reaching out to the leper, Jesus crosses a social boundary that no one is allowed to cross. He breaks a social rule by associating with, speaking to and touching the leper. In doing this Jesus makes himself unclean.
The outcast leper is brought back into society while Jesus is alienated for breaking the established social norms.
We know this is so because in the beginning of the gospel story, Jesus moves about freely in the community but the leper is an outcast, isolated and shunned.
By the end of the story, the former leper, who is now healed, can move about freely in the community, while it is impossible for Jesus to do so. He must isolate himself because he is now ritually unclean.
The cleansed leper can now enter the town while the one who cured him cannot. In essence, Jesus takes the leper’s place.
This is the Paschal Mystery. Jesus takes upon himself our sins and infirmities, and the consequences, which are justly ours.
By our words and actions, sometimes we do the opposite of Jesus. We make some people feel like they are outcasts in our society.
Those with mental illness, those who are socially awkward, the homeless, gay people, those who are divorced and remarried, those who belong to a different race or social class.
We can be judgmental and make people who are different from us feel worthless and unwanted.
Jesus does not do that. Rather, Jesus stretches out his hand to touch those who are unclean, those who are alienated.
Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has given us many examples of following Jesus in this way.
Without hesitation, he reaches out and lays his hands on those who are ostracized, the deformed, the sick, the prisoner.
Word reached Pope Francis about a transgendered man who had been denounced by his own parish priest. Pope Francis met with the man privately.
In doing this, Pope Francis follows in the footsteps of Jesus. He encourages the church to have a personal encounter with those on the margins of society.
We follow Jesus every time we reach out and cross social boundaries to be with people who are ostracized and in need of healing.
Jesus and Francis include people. They do not reject them. Jesus cares about those no one else cares about. Jesus includes the excluded.
In the gospel we see a person thought to be repulsive and unlovable, maybe even evil, completely shunned by society. That same person is loved by God, receiving mercy and compassion and healing.
In place of rejection, Jesus offers acceptance. In place of disgust, Jesus offers compassion. In place of isolation, Jesus offers healing.
So, the story of the leper teaches us two important life lessons.
First, we can bring our dark and frightening sides to Jesus. We can present our sickness and sin to Jesus who embraces what others reject.
And second, we must learn to be less judgmental. The people who are judged, who are alienated, who are cast aside as worthless, they are the ones who are healed.
But those who are judgmental, who ostracize and alienate, they are not.