Monday, February 16, 2009

Gospel reading for Sunday

As you may remember, I try to ask the Lord to give me a word or a phrase that He wants me to hear at every Mass (thanks to Michael Dubriel, who suggested it in his book the How-To Book of the Mass. Please order a copy to help out his family!)

This past Sunday, however, the message came not at Mass itself, but from something my husband said right before.

We usually go over the readings with the kids bright and early on Sunday mornings, as they are all munching the standard "broiled bagels with meat and cheese" breakfast in the kitchen (my husband gets us up mighty early so we can eat a little something before the fast starts for 8:00 am Mass.)

Sorry... I'm rambling. Let me get back on track here.

The first reading was from Leviticus 13, where God gives all the various laws concerning leprosy: "The one who bears the sore of leprosy shall ... shall declare himself unclean, since he is in fact unclean. He shall dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp."

Then we read in the Gospel (Mark 1:40-45) that a leper bows down to the Lord and says, "if You are willing, You can make me clean." Of course Jesus was... and did... but my husband noticed something else. In the story Jesus tells the leper not to broadcast this healing, but the leper does anyway:

"The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter. He spread the report abroad so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly. He remained outside in deserted places..."

My husband got quiet for a minute after reading it and then said, "Did you notice that? Jesus switched places with the leper."

That thought has not left me since Sunday. Jesus switched places with the leper. The man who had been condemned to stay away from the city was now entering and joyously proclaiming to one and all that he had been healed, and Jesus was left on the outside, wandering in deserted places.

Makes you pause, doesn't it?

I've heard the story of the Passion so many times that its familiarity often blinds me to its greatness. Yes, I know He died for me... for us... and I am overwhelmed by it all, but this -- this is different. It shows me that the exchange wasn't just a one-time event. He sacrificed Himself in little ways every day, and many of them were hardly noticed.

That's the kind of Savior we have.


Rebekka said...

This Gospel really struck me too although for a slightly different reason. I work in a hospital so I'm used to thinking in terms of clean and unclean, sterile, not-sterile-but-clean, etc. Cleanliness is only maintained by isolation - and uncleanliness is contagious. Once something is unclean, it is unclean, and if it touches something clean, that too becomes unclean. The only way to make it clean again is to perform some sort of a "ritual" act - hygienic hand-wash or disinfection or what have you. Sterility requires even higher standards and more demanding rituals (autoclaves, and so on). Listening to this last Gospel reading really brought the parallel home for me - we human beings run around being human and fallible, we mess things up, and on our own we are powerless to do anything about it. Only through the Sacraments do we gain the ability to make it right again - our ritual acts. Yet Christ Himself is supernaturally above this. He is the cleanest and purest of all, and yet we need not fear contaminating him with our "uncleanness" (perhaps lack of grace is better). He can make things clean by touch alone, truly a miracle.

Ooops, this got long. Sorry!

Amy said...

I really appreciated this post! In all my readings and sermons on this passage I had never noticed the switch between them. It has provided much food for thought. Isn't it amazing that Jesus looks on him with compassion rather than disgust and is even willing to touch the leper. We were challenged by our priest to see ourselves as the leper.

Ouiz said...

Thank you both so much for your comments!

I've always focused on Jesus' compassion ("I am willing. Be made clean.") in this story. The fact that this man is so pitiable... and that Jesus doesn't hesitate to reach out and touch him... spoke to me.

If my husband hadn't made the comment he did, I would have never noticed that this healing came at the sacrifice/expense of Jesus. Not only was He willing to make him whole, He was willing to do so at great cost to Himself.