Imagine the damage to the human psyche -- how brutally hurtful to the soul it all must have been to live with a belief of yourself as “unclean;” how isolating it would have been. Imagine the powerful impact that Jesus’ healing had on this man -- it would have been completely and utterly life altering and transformative!
While Jesus had instructed him to tell no one about his healing he ran forth and told everybody he encountered about what Jesus had done and how he had healed him. But it is so easy to understand how he simply could not keep his mouth shut about what had happened to him. Suddenly he had his life back; he had his family back. He could once again enjoy the company of his friends and his community! He was no longer an outcast. He no longer had to identify himself as “unclean” and unfit and unable to be part of the human family!
And so, this Gospel begs the question: who are the lepers in our lives, in our communities, in our nation and in our world? Immigrants, refugees and migrants, people of color, members of the LGBTQ community – these people are treated with disdain and contempt by hate groups, and people who fail to see their common human dignity. They fail to see that the ones they hate are the beloved children of God! Racists, white supremacists, misogynists, xenophobes all fail the most basic test of discipleship! And yet so often call themselves Christians!
Their lives are ruled by hatred of “the other” and they do not love their neighbor as themselves, let alone love their enemy, as Jesus commanded all of us to do as his disciples! Living our discipleship means loving one another without limits or qualifications! It does not stand on how they treat us or how they think of us. It is about our attitude toward them, not what they do!
Treating “the other”, especially the one who has offended me, as the beloved child of God is no easy task but being a disciple of Jesus is no easy life. It ultimately leads to the cross! We must be willing to at least be open to the possibility of loving the one who hates and return their hate with Gospel love. To embrace them, not their hate-filled words and actions or intentions. We can strongly and loudly, in the name of the Gospel, call out as “sin” their wicked words and despicable actions! But that does not mean that we hate them, as they are still the children of God!
This is where it gets difficult -- to put what Jesus calls us to into action! To live the life of a disciple. We will fall down and fail but by the grace of the Holy Spirit, who dwells within us, we can rise up and start again!
We need to ask ourselves, who are the lepers in my life and how can I try to bring healing and wholeness to them? How can I actively work to bring an end to all of these “isms” that divide, devalue, and demean the human dignity of others?
As disciples of Jesus Christ what does this story of Jesus’ healing of the leper and returning him to life in his community speak to us about the war between Israel and Hamas and the death of tens of thousands of innocent civilians? And, how we as individuals and as a nation should be responding to these atrocities of war?