Wednesday, January 10, 2018

“Make Me Clean, O Lord” by Beth DeCristofaro

“Make Me Clean, O Lord” by Beth DeCristofaro

Healing of the Lepers
at Capernaum by James Tissot
On learning that the ark of the LORD had come into the camp, the Philistines were frightened. They said, "Gods have come to their camp." They said also, "Woe to us! This has never happened before. Woe to us! Who can deliver us from the power of these mighty gods? … So fight manfully!" The Philistines fought and Israel was defeated. (1 Samuel 4:7-8,9-10)

A leper came to him and kneeling down begged him and said, "If you wish, you can make me clean." Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched the leper, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean." The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean. Then, warning him sternly, he dismissed him at once. Then he said to him, "See that you tell no one anything, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them." (Mark 1:40-43)

With you, O Lord, is the fountain of life and in your light, we (I) see light. (Psalm 36:10, Communion Antiphon from the Mass of the Day)

Working many years in health care I have never met anyone suffering from leprosy. Thank God Hanson’s’ Disease is today rare and treatable. In Jesus’ day not only was it an isolating scourge but must have been horrendously painful and dreadfully embarrassing.

However, I have experienced severe, even life-threatening illnesses which have left me weak and fearful. More than a few times anger has filled me with such bitterness and hurt that I can imagine the chancre sores of leprosy. Frustration, envy, and low self-image have put barriers between myself and those I love. High handedness and prejudice have caused me embarrassment as I realize my sinful ways toward another. Being convinced that I was a victim of one system or another has caused me to close doors to what might have been life-giving companionship or opportunities. These emotions are not wicked but cultivating and basking in them is sinful. As the leper knelt in front of Jesus I can also place myself on my knees asking “make me clean.”

If only it were so simple. Is it because my faith is less than a mustard seed that I find myself, again and again, repeating the same patterns? Or is it that I truly don’t want to give up the habits which cause me such pain? Just as the Israelites who had the presence of God with them on the battlefield, I find myself falling in defeat again and again. But my spiritual journey has shown me the miracle is that I find Jesus in front of me, reaching out his hand if I but only ask and accept “make me clean.” I have his promise, He is present, He gives his absolute, loving generosity of mercy. When I kneel in front of him I not only ask but I bow my head in gratitude stronger than the fear, frustration, anger or other leprous hurts I am experiencing.

After Jesus heals the leper he tells the man to go to the temple and show himself to the priests. Jesus knows that leprosy has cut the man off from his spiritual as well as biological family and friends. Jesus teaches that each of us needs to belong to a community in which we are constantly nurtured and nurture others, are healed and offer healing, are forgiving and forgive. Of course, the man cannot contain his overabounding joy and goes leaping and dancing and praising God instead. To whom am I cut off – whether it is my own center of God or another. What can I do today to reinstate myself?  Look for light instead of remaining in the shadow of hurt.

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