Sunday, 15 February 2015

Chaplain Thoughts: Week Six

Every time I hear this Gospel, I wonder how awful it must have been for someone who had leprosy, especially in the time of Jesus, when they didn't have any type of cure for it.  As you know, lepers were shunned and ignored by everybody; and shall dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp. Imagine what it would be like to be ignored by people, by those in school for instance.  To have no one to talk to and play with; that's how it was for the leper who asked Jesus to cure him.

Notice how Jesus reacts to this outcast, He doesn't react with revulsion, afraid that He'll be contaminated.  Although everyone else avoids him, Jesus has pity on him.   Although everyone thinks that that this man's situation is hopeless, Jesus doesn't.  Although everybody flees from this sick man in horror, Jesus doesn't.  Instead, Jesus does the unthinkable.  Jesus reaches out and actually touches the man and this leper is cured.  His life is changed dramatically for the better in one single moment.  He is restored to society, to his friends and family, and can now live a normal life.

This simple story has good news for us who are alive today.  It says that Jesus is a true friend of the outcast; that Jesus won't reject anybody who comes to Him; now, as then, Jesus' touch gives us hope. The Good News of our Gospel today is that our situations are not hopeless,  that God loves us just they way we are and not the way we think we ought to be.  He doesn't love us because we are 'good', because we're not good.  God doesn't love us because of what we can 'do' for Him because we can't do anything to earn His love.  God loves us because He is good and He wants to share His love and goodness with us.  And, this love is not the kind of love that says, "I will love you if…" or "I will love you when…".

For this love of God to bear fruit in our lives we need to do what the leper did.  He recognized the hopelessness of his situation and came to Jesus for help.  And, so must we.  So let us remember that if we think about it, all of us have our own form of leprosy, don't we?  Our leprosy might be gossiping. It might be that we are hard-hearted or mean or tell lies or are unforgiving.  Maybe we've become a sourpuss with an "I don't care attitude" toward life.  These kinds of things can eat away at us just as much as leprosy. Bring these to Our Lord and we too, will experience His healing touch. All we have to do is take that first step because Jesus is there just waiting for us, just as the Father waited for his prodigal son to return. 

So, the real question is "Do I want to be cured"? 

Fr Michael Manning, O.Carm.

Drawing by Rembrandt van Rijn:  Jesus Curing a leper (1656)