Today’s Gospel: Matthew 8:1-4
In Jesus’ time, leprosy was more than just an illness. It was in many ways a completely dehumanizing condition. Persons who contracted leprosy were cast out of their community. They could not enter their town, they could not participate in worship, they could not even see their family. They relied on the mercy of others for their food and other needs. They were isolated, completely cut off from the rest of society.
If someone did manage to overcome the illness, there was a lengthy and complicated cleansing ritual they had to undergo which lasted 8 days. It included multiple sacrifices, various anointings and even specific clothing. To reenter the community was no small task.
Today’s reading makes me think of those members of our communities who are in one way or another outcasts. Maybe they don’t speak our language or they have different customs. Perhaps they are elderly and have no family close by. Possibly they are struggling with debt and are either working 2 jobs to make ends meet or are unable to keep a job for any number of reasons. All of these people and more are in need of some form of healing or comfort. For many, it may feel that fully participating in society isn’t an option.
Notice how Jesus, even in the midst of a great crowd, heard the pleas of one who was not part of the crowd. This leper hadn’t been following Jesus with everyone else. He was off to the side and only approached as Jesus came down the mountain. Jesus doesn’t send him away or tell him to come back later. Jesus is present with this man in this moment and does everything He can to reunite the leper with his community. We are called to do the same.
Is there someone in your life who you can more fully engage with so that they can more actively participate in your community?
Lord, please open my eyes to those who are living on the fringes of my society. Give me the courage, compassion and mercy necessary to help those You place in my path.
Copyright 2017 Kate Taliaferro