I am the person St. Mark speaks about in today’s Gospel. I am the person described in the Book of Leviticus. And I need to tell you my story so that God may be glorified.
I heard that he broke boundaries. People told me that he healed cripples and blind people. So, I took a risk. I dared to go into the town. I dared to find Jesus!
I could not take it any more. It was not just the filth and living conditions. Yes, I hated the scabs but I was not like the others. I did not have leprosy. I developed some really scaly skin that looked like scabs. I did not develop what you would call today “Hansen’s Disease”. But no one listened, not even my priest. What really pained me was the rejection. You try living in isolation and homelessness for one month and see how desperate you get. See how desperate you become when you find yourself living as an outcast because of discrimination.
That is why I had to find Jesus. I just had to. I thought to myself, if I can just get close enough. I did not care about the law that prohibited me from coming into the city. I cared less about the bell that I had to ring to keep people away from me. I despised the ruling that I had to yell out ahead of me wherever I went, “Unclean, unclean!” People turned away when I approached. Even fellow worshippers (my own neighbors!) closed their eyes when I called out for food. They threw stones at me, hurling insults. They yelled at me that I was a fiend. Even my friends and my family thought that I had sinned terribly. My wife wept openly when the priest ostracized me from the community. Only one person did not shrink away. Only one person- Jesus!
You know what he did? He touched me! He broke the boundary and he spoke to me. Then he broke all conventional wisdom and he touched me. He said, “It is my will…Be-made-clean! And then it happened~ I looked up and I saw the eyes of God: pure compassion, pure mercy, and pure love. Something deep within his gut came forth like power into his arms and hands and I was clean, finally!
Immediately I felt power surge through my limbs, my eyes, my mouth, my hair, and my face. I looked down at my hands and my arms. I felt my face. My skin was as smooth as a baby’s skin. And I was clean!
How could I not begin to publicize the whole matter? People had to know that I was whole again. Other rejects of society needed to know that if they were courageous, Jesus would cleanse them too. I ran to show the priests of the temple that I was clean but it took days for them to believe me. The only one who cared for me was Jesus.
Will you do the same for the rejects of your society here in America? Do you know any rejects of society? Do you know any who live on the fringe of society? How about some depressed struggling men and women who live in daily pain? When you come forward to communion do you ever think of them? Are they in your family? Are there any fringe people here at Villa St. Benedict or Sacred Heart Monastery? This is a center in the Benedictine tradition, correct? And the Rule of St. Benedict says that we are to demonstrate the greatest kindness to all, especially to the guest and the sick, does it not? Then do you help other rejects to see the cleansing power of Christ?
If Christ cleaned me he can clean anyone. Imitate Christ, then, and befriend them. Help them be cleansed of their inner disease and their loneliness. Do it for the glory of God, so that others can feel the touch of God. That is when we break the boundary.
The Rev. Fr. Dr. T. Becket A. Franks, O.S.B.
The Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time