A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”
Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy.
Lepers in Bible times were marginalized people. They were shunned and removed from society, made to feel ashamed – socially, physically, spiritually and emotionally. This marginalization was to protect others – reduce the risk of infection to healthy people, even if this “safety net” caused lepers to be treated harshly by members of society.
Jesus didn’t play by the rules set in place by the leaders of the day, however. Not only did He approach this “less than” person, He actually touched Him. We know that His touch healed this man, but it also sent a very clear message to the people watching.
Pope Francis, in a homily to new cardinals, defined this message by saying that as Christ followers we are “to serve Jesus crucified in every person who is emarginated, for whatever reason; to see the Lord in every excluded person who is hungry, thirsty, naked; to see the Lord present even in those who have lost their faith, or turned away from the practice of their faith; to see the Lord in who is imprisoned, sick, unemployed, persecuted; to see the Lord in the leper – whether in body or soul – who encounters discrimination!”
You and I may never encounter a person with leprosy. But we will encounter people who have been marginalized by a society that places value judgments on differences between people. We will encounter people who have come to believe that they are seen as less than others for a multitude of reasons.
Jesus didn’t show us that example. He didn’t assign more value to healthy members of society than He did to those who are unhealthy. He didn’t assign value to people based on color or gender or their position in society. He reached out to the hurting, the rejected, the overlooked, the shunned, the sick, the lame, the mentally tormented and touched them, displaying the value He places on them.
Pope Francis ends his homily with this admonition:
“We will not find the Lord unless we truly accept the marginalized!”
Father, the way Jesus touched this man is beautiful. Help me, as Your child be willing to do no less. Open my eyes to see the people who need a touch from You and may that touch come from me. Open the eyes of all who are Christ followers to see and hear and touch the marginalized, in Jesus’ name, amen.
I would love to hear from you. Please let me know if I can be praying for you as well.
pic credit: lookandlearn.com
pic credit: enwikipedia.com