We each have our own variant of leprosy, don’t we? With some it’s visible on the outside; for others, it thrives on the inside. Our faults: scaly or hidden are made obvious by our actions, our facial expressions, our tone of voice. And, there are those who harbor their leprosy – deep in their feelings and heart – a gut ache or pain caused by stressed nerves. Yes, we do this even when our leprosy is old and scarred and has been in our gunny sack for more years than we can count. You know those kinds of wounds that we take out every once in a while to nurse and keep alive. We rehash their story privately or in unrelated situations when some word or sound, or maybe a smell reignites the fuse. We discover that there’s an ember that springs to flame that we didn’t even realize was there all along. But Jesus has been watching it. He’s waiting for us to reach out and plead: “If you wish, you can make me clean.”
When we do, what is Jesus’ instruction? “Go, show yourself to the priest.” (Here he’s not talking about the Sacrament of Reconciliation.) This is Jesus’ way of asking us to bring our faults into the light of day, to expose them so they can be zapped with the Divine Presence. St. Benedict speaks of submission to the will of another, humility, confession of faults and public admission of mistakes. He quotes the psalmist – as he often does – when he says: “I will report my faults to the Lord.” (PS 31). Benedict encourages the members to admit their fault “of their own accord and make satisfaction.” But, he’s not naïve – he knows there will be occasions when this doesn’t happen. You know what he says: “Be subjected to a more severe correction.” Now that may seem irrelevant to the story of Jesus and the man with leprosy. But it seems pretty obvious (to me) that Jesus did not go looking for the man. The man called out to Jesus: “If you wish, you can make me clean.” Benedict, (what a wise man!) knew there’d be more sensitive souls in community, personalities who’d need more solicitous care, compassion and consideration. To this one, Benedict advises: “reveal (this hidden fault) “only to a spiritual guide who knows how to heal her own wounds as well as those of others”, (and equally important) “without exposing them and making them public.”
We don’t know how long this man with the leprosy had been following Jesus. How many miracles had he witnessed before he felt compelled to step forward and the words escaped his lips: “If you wish, you can make me clean?” Had he seen Jesus’ interaction with the woman caught in adultery or heard the story of the good Samaritan or good Shepherd? Was it desperation that made him cry out: “If you wish, you can make me clean”? Was he burdened with feelings of guilt for having leprosy and causing the estrangement of his family and friends since he was bound by law to “make his abode outside the camp.”? (Leviticus1:46) Did the rest of crowd step back when he moved forward to be heard? This was a “gutsy” young man! He was stepping into the light, drawing attention to himself and his leprosy. He was admitting publicly that he was not clean. He risked being shunned AGAIN! But faith won out: “If YOU wish, YOU can make ME clean.”
As we enter the Lenten season (this week) we pray: “Jesus, if you choose, you can make me clean.” I do want to be clean; I am ready to be made whole. Don’t look only at the faults I am aware of. I trust that you can make the whole of me clean in your eyes. It doesn’t matter whether or not we raise our voice to be heard above the crowd: “If you wish, you can make me clean.” It may be, that someone pushes us forward, “Now’s a good time; ask him now – He can do it!” Do you believe in intercessory prayer? Do the General Intercessions make any difference in the lives of those we name? “I turn to you, Lord, in time of trouble, and you fill me with the joy of salvation. … for, a great prophet has arisen in our midst: God has visited his people.”
~Reflection by Sister Roberta Bailey, OSB
Ash Wednesday, February 14, Mass and distribution of Ashes at 7:30 a.m.
May you enjoy a happy Mardi Gras on Feb. 13 … and an unusual Valentine’s Day gift of the opening of Lent: a love feast extraordinaire as God opens his arms to work with you on keeping of resolutions that will shape a new you this per-Easter season.
Celebrate with us on February 28th the anniversary of 135 years since the day the Benedictine Sisters arrived in FL from PA. God bless all who have touched our lives with their prayers and gifts of time, talent and financial support.
Prayers on Sunday when we had our monthly Recollection Day … a quiet day of prayer, Holy Hour and Evening Prayer. God bless you each and all with good health, much happiness and abundant peace!