Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
"The one who bears the sore of leprosy shall keep his garments rent and his head bare, and shall muffle his beard; he shall cry out, 'Unclean, unclean!' As long as the sore is on him he shall declare himself unclean, since he is in fact unclean. He shall dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp." Leviticus 13:44-46
A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said, "If you wish, you can make me clean." Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, "I do will it. Be made clean." The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean. Mark 1:40-42
It’s made pretty clear in the Old Testament that a human with leprosy was UNCLEAN. Take a second to imagine spending your life separated from your loved ones and community constantly shouting out “Unclean, unclean!” to describe yourself. What a horrifying existence. But then Jesus appears. He is moved with pity. He stretches out his hand. He touches you, probably the first touch you’ve felt in years. He heals you.
I’ll never forget my first massage. I’m not a big spender and so I felt a little guilty spending money on myself, but I hold tension in my neck/shoulders and it was post-Christmas so I just decided to go for it. I booked a massage for one hour. The massage therapist continued to work on me for an hour and forty-five minutes. She didn’t charge me extra. She said it was her honor to heal my pain, my stress, my knots and she wasn’t quitting until she worked out every single one. I got in the car and tears just started streaming down my face. I later learned that this is a common physical reaction after massages, but at the time, I just kept repeating, “I can’t believe someone would choose to expend so much energy into loving and healing me.” I was so humbled by her gift. She touched me. And she healed me. And it felt like someone cared more about my body than I did. And when I think about that leper, I feel like I understand a tiny portion of the intense humility and gratitude he must have felt towards his Healer. It’s almost indescribable.
I find that Christians tend to lean in one of two directions. Either we are the lepers constantly declaring ourselves unclean or we are the Pharisees constantly pointing fingers at the other person who is unclean. Either we live in a state of guilt and insecurity or we live in a state of arrogance, judging those around us who don’t live up to our standards of morality.
For those who judge others, we must remind ourselves of Jesus’ response to the ‘unclean.’ If Jesus looks upon the unclean person and is moved with pity, stretches out his hand, and touches them, don’t you think our response to the ‘unclean’ should be the same? If he welcomes all to the table, shouldn’t we? If he feels pity for the unclean instead of anger and judgment, shouldn’t we? If he sees the human in them, shouldn’t we?
Or maybe you are in that first camp, the group of people who judge themselves more harshly than others. Maybe someone once labeled you ‘unclean’ and you have accepted it and owned that title. Or maybe you have been your own judge, constantly repeating ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ Maybe negative self-talk has taken over your life and you can’t see your goodness anymore. Jesus is there with his hand stretched out, moved with pity, touching you and healing you. It’s time to declare yourself clean and put away the negative self-talk.
This week, we ask:
Do I view others and myself as Jesus does?
Am I moved with pity or am I moved with judgment and anger?
Do I reach out my hand or do I turn my eyes away from those I deem ‘unclean’?
Am I kind to myself?
Do I label myself ‘unclean’ or do I label myself ‘cherished’, ‘beloved’, and ‘child of God’?
Let us be a people who heal, rather than harm, segregate, or label. Let us inspire others to get in their car and cry tears of joy because of us saying, “I can’t believe someone would choose to expend so much energy into loving and healing me.” Let us use positive language to describe one another and ourselves. Let us be thankful for a God who reaches His hand down and heals us.