January 16, 2020 – Thursday First Week in Ordinary Time
Click here for the readings http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/011620.cfm
14 years ago I met, Nanay Elisabeth, an old lady with leprosy. Life was so difficult because she was poor. But once, she shared with me an experience. In her younger years, she was into scavenging garbage in Cebu. One early morning, as she approached a garbage bin to collect recyclable materials, she found something. She actually found “someone” inside the garbage bin that others might have thought, was a trash. Nanay Elisabeth found a newly born baby girl in that garbage bin. She named her Nancy. Nancy, perhaps, a reason why she was thrown away, was because Baby Nancy had a cerebral palsy. But what was more heartwarming there, was Nanay Elisabeth’s unconditional love for the baby. The baby was unwanted. But for Nanay Elisabeth, all her love and affection were for Nancy. She brought Nancy home and did all her best to let Nancy feel that she is loved and treasured.
It is a story that proves kindness and love in the human heart that values human life and worth despite its seemingly ugliness. It tells us that no matter how poor we are, wounded or imperfect we are in the eyes of many – we can give life to others by touching the lives of those who need most of our love and kindness.
It brings me into the story that we have heard in the Gospel. It is about a leper who found love and kindness in Jesus. In the Biblical times, a leper was nobody. When somebody is infected with leprosy, the person is removed from the community. It means that the person is forced to leave from the comfort of friends, family and relatives.
The Jews at that time believed that leprosy is an ultimate punishment for sin. A leper is considered a terrible sinner punished by God and thus unclean, unworthy and worthless person. It was a form of treating a leper as less than human or not human at all.
But then our Gospel tells us a shocking and moving turn of events. A leper should never come closer to a Jew and a Jew should also immediately avoid any contact with a leper. However, a leper confidently came closer to Jesus asking the Lord to cure him. But what was more mind-blowing for the people to see was Jesus’ gesture towards the leper.
Jesus touched the leper!
The Lord touched a worthless, unclean and less-human leper. The touch of Jesus destroyed the wall of indifference among the Jews towards the leper. The touch of Jesus assures the leper that he is not worthless at all, not less human but, loved and cherished by the Lord who longs to see him joyful and healed.
Indeed, Jesus was moved to touch the leper because the Lord looked with PITY on him. This feeling of pity is not a “shallow feeling” that we usually have when we see a beggar or a person with difficulty, and then we feel pity, but we go along with our life and forget about the person. No, it is not that way.
What Jesus felt was true pity where he too felt the sorrow and pain of the leper. This moved him to do something, and that is, to touch the leper in order to heal him. By doing that, Jesus broke the barriers of disgust, shame and fear that prevent the leper to be accepted by the community.
This is what the Lord wants us to realize today – to recognize those people in our community who have been left out, abandoned and disgusted by many, so that, like Jesus we may also be able to touch them and show kindness and love.
Let us also not forget that each of us has our own leprosy, imperfection and sins that would qualify us as worthless before God. However, God felt pity upon us and thus became human like us so that he may touch us to heal us. Let us then, share to others the touch of God that we have experienced so that like Nanay Elizabeth who despite her own situation, we may also be able to give joy to those who are sad, to give hope to those who are hopeless, and to give healing as we care to touch the lives of others. Hinaut pa.
Jom Baring, CSsR