We live the Eucharist as a mission. The Body of Christ is alive as we move out and toward His sisters and brothers. During our Eucharistic journeys we encounter bumps in the road. We would wish it were smooth and easy to live.
We pray these days of Eucharistic living for the grace to have clean hearts. We pray for the freedom to touch what calls to us for healing. We pray as well for the honesty to have our uncleanliness touched by God. We can pray to reach those who are considered outside the camp, outside the circle, but who, by Christ’s touch, are in the Eucharistic pale.
We pray as well to trust God’s good time in healing us from our sores, bumps, rashness boilings-over, and various physical and emotional injuries experienced during our journeys. We also pray for the grace to join Jesus in His ways of reaching out to those who are injured, sick, or alienated.
We hear in the First Reading only a few verses from two whole chapters from Leviticus dealing with one specific topic, leprosy. This book, one of the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures, deals mostly with laws contributing to proper order in the camp resulting from God’s direct word through Moses and or Aaron.
The original garden of perfection was a picture of orderliness, everything had its name and proper place. Any imperfection, or something out of place was ungodly and so unholy.
The two chapters make reference to various forms of leprosy; of the body, of clothing, and of the walls of the houses. Cleanliness was definitely next to godliness and a reflection of the purity of God. Physical sickness of any form was some kind of sign that there was some interior impurity present. Distance, abandonment, and alienation from the “pure” was the prevention from further uncleanness.
The person who was judged to have the disease by the priests, would have to walk around shouting their identity as “unclean” and live according to that name. In the following chapter, there is a description of a quite extended process of examination, purification and restoration back into the community. When reading that, one might choose to stay in the previous condition of leprosy.
The Gospel has some interesting features. The “unclean” man, instead of keeping his distance according to the tradition and the law, came to Jesus for healing, that is if Jesus was willing. Jesus touched the man, not keeping his distance either. The physical healing took place as an act of faith. The man is told to go and show himself to the priests and offer what Moses prescribed. This is that long process of ritual boilings, sacrificing and consuming. The proof will be judged by the priests of the Law who then will ask how it all happened so quickly.
The man, now cured, is now in the camp and Mark states clearly that Jesus stayed outside in deserted places so as to remain available for further healings. He will remain an outsider welcoming people back in harmony with God and themselves.
Fear of exclusion and abandonment is central to our human condition. Billions of dollars are spent each year in the attempt to make sure that human beings remain accepted. Whatever the current form of leprosy might be, we can buy some kind of curative. It might be stylish clothing, a new make-over of face or hair. This can be done easily if one has a portion of those billions. There is a non-physical, interior sickness however for which billions cannot be spent for healing, but for which Jesus spent His healing days, and continues in our days.
There are many forms of this “interioritis”. Each one of us can provide the name or names by which we declare ourselves, “Unclean!” “Enoughness” is such a disease. This form of disabilitation subtracts us from “the camp” of social and assistive involvements. Past failures, or at least what we judged as failures, weaken our spirits into negativity and we shout, sometimes very shyly and inconspicuously, “No, not me, I’m not enough for what’s being expected.” In this way, we can continue developing an “outside-the-camp” spirit of false humility, or maybe it is better named, pride. We also reduce the spirit of the “camp” and they are less for that subtraction.
Any healing in which Jesus is at the center, always - that is right - always moves us toward the investments, involvements, and interest in the well-being of the “camp” members. Harmony and order in whatever camp from which we come, remains God’s way of loving. Self-diminishing diminishes God’s presence among God’s people.
What Jesus did most for this man was His changing his identity from “unclean” to a presence in the community of the Good News. What Jesus does most in our lives as Savior is the restoration of our good-enough-to-share self. We might have only one paint can, one color, maybe not filled to the brim and a smaller brush than others. Jesus painted our world with His color and invites us back always, into His camp, this world, and continues doing His thing.
Our leprosy might be an arrogance which says, “Somehow, I thought I should be more, better, excellent and super.” We come to Him, kneel down and after admitting our truth, Jesus’ constant, “I do will it” is His missioning healing response. We will know His unleperous healing when we want to get up, get back in, and begin painting.
“They ate and had their fill, and what they craved the Lord gave them; they were not disappointed in what they craved.” Ps. 78, 29-30
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