6th Sunday of Ordinary Time: February 15, 2015
Leviticus: We hear the story of the leper. It is a symbolic story about more than just a leper by also one who is unclean and a result a threat to the whole community. In those days one who is suspected of being unclean must be brought to Aaron or a priest. If one is found to be leprous or unclean they shall keep his garments rent (torn), his head bare, and he shall muffle his beard, cry out unclean, unclean.
He shall dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp.
Why would our church place this reading, the week end before Ash Wednesday, the day the season of Lent begins. Perhaps it might be good and even necessary for the people of God to begin to reflect upon any unclean illness that may have invaded our hearts during the recent months or years? Lent will provide us with 40 days to clean the house we live in. We know the place where no one can see.
A great threat to health:
At the time, one with leprosy was a great infectious threat to the health of a community. If the illness was not dealt with the whole community would suffer. So perhaps we are called to reflect upon the kinds of leprosy that has invaded our society in 2015.
In the 1990’s the Lord sent me to bowls of Atlanta to encounter the lepers of that day – people with HIV/AIDS. Although I did not know it at the time I was sent there to confront the one who looks back at me in the mirror.
Current Day Lepers:
Friday, as I visited the prison I was reminded of the current day Lepers. So many young men imprisoned. Heads shaven, tattoos all over, wearing white uniforms clearly marked “Prisoner”, living in an abode outside the community camp. As they walk around the grounds, they are required to hold their hands behind their back as if to say unclean, unclean.
Who can save me?
This Friday I was told the story of an angry at the world young man 14 years old. After lashing out in vain he finally asked an old inmate if he could talk with him privately. He wanted to know if it was possible that he would ever get out of this prison. He was guilty of murder and had received a life sentence. Who he asked – can help me was the young mans question?
Paul gave the answer. Try to encounter everyone, not seeking my own benefit, but being open that many may be saved. Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. Who is that man? Jesus Christ the only source of power to save.
Listen to the story. A leper came to Christ, kneeling down, begged him and said, if you wish, you can make me clean. What we might miss, unless we reflect on the circumstance the leper found himself, is that he not only had a serious illness but was ostracized from the community to which he could not return. The penalty was a double edge sword that cut through to the heart.
Why I ask, would this be the scripture for this week when a young man 14 years old facing life in prison ask would ask? – who can help me?
This weeks scriptures and the season of Lent are dedicated to encourage us to reflect on a life and death struggle. Heaven or Hell which do we seek? The state of our cleanliness will determine which camp we will be assigned.
Forced outside of camp:
There is an irony in today’s Gospel I don’t want us to miss. Jesus warned the leper sternly to not tell anyone. Jesus knew if he told people his cover would be blown and His mission cut short. Jesus came for all sinners and knew this would take some time. Sure enough Jesus cover as the Messiah was blown. It made it impossible for Jesus to enter town openly. Jesus was forced out of the camp to where the lepers of the world reside.
Outside the camp in deserted places is where the unclean reside. As a result of Jesus healing the leper – the leper was transformed and the people came to him from everywhere.
Jesus calls us – come follow me. We know this so well. But do we know where he was? Outside the camp. For so many of us the camp is that place where we are comfortable and feel safe. Jesus says come follow me – come outside your camp to where I am among the sinners I came to save.
Maybe this Lent some of us will not only give up something, but just maybe we will walk outside the camp to encounter the people Jesus calls to save as imitators of Christ.