A contagious faith

| Father Jim Livingston | February 8, 2018 | 0 Comments

In the Gospel reading for Feb. 11, a leper came to Jesus. In biblical times, a scab, pustule, blotch or sore on the skin could be a symptom of leprosy, and reason enough to isolate its carrier from society to prevent contagion.

Like it or not, our experience with society is often a stepping stone to our perception of God. We often project onto God our significant experiences and expectations with people and culture. Faith is based on God’s word, but it has a human voice, and our personal faith is often limited by our personal history.

In today’s culture, the scabs, pustules, blotches and sores that bring isolation are usually interior. They mark the psyche, not the skin. A “father wound” separates a man psychologically and spiritually from accepting God as his heavenly father. An unhealed abortion experience prevents a woman from being comfortable with infants. Abandonment blinds a child to the possibility of being or finding a trustworthy marriage partner. A shameful mistake initiates a lifetime of self-condemnation and insecurity. Our modern world is still filled with “lepers of the heart” who are isolated and far from being at peace with self, others or God.

This is why the prayer of this leper was so remarkable. From a place of rejection and isolation, he dared to approach God, who was present to him in Jesus. “If you wish, you can make me clean” (Mk 1:40). This man dared to believe. “I turn to you, Lord, in time of trouble, and you fill me with the joy of salvation.” Such is the power of faith. Reaching beyond human limitations, his faith brought him to an encounter with God himself. Jesus “stretched out his hand [and] touched him.” And he was made clean.

With remarkable irony, the once leprous and isolated man now experiences total freedom to communicate and move about. Once on the tattered edge of society, he is now a major influence. Even today, his voice and story encourage our faith. Our wounds and sins need not separate us from God’s mercy.

Meanwhile, Jesus is restricted to dwelling out of doors in deserted places. This exchange prefigures the paschal mystery. Encountering Jesus through faith and baptism, his Spirit is given to us while our sin is given to him. Our memory of this exchange remains in any given parish environment as we assemble under the image of Jesus crucified. He remains, as it were, deserted on the cross, yet people keep coming to him from everywhere to be cleansed, healed and forgiven in the liturgy of the word and the Eucharist.

Father Livingston is pastor of St. Paul in Ham Lake.

Sunday, Feb. 11
Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Category: Sunday Scriptures