Tuesday, September 27, 2016

27 September 27, 2016
            Once, when he was in one of the cities, there was a man covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he bowed with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.” Then Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, “I do choose. Be made clean.” Immediately the leprosy left him. And he ordered him to tell no one. “Go,” he said, “and show yourself to the priest, and, as Moses commanded, make an offering for your cleansing, for a testimony to them.” But now more than ever the word about Jesus spread abroad; many crowds would gather to hear him and to be cured of their diseases. But he would withdraw to deserted places and pray.
            One day, while he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting near by (they had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem); and the power of the Lord was with him to heal. Just then some men came, carrying a paralyzed man on a bed. They were trying to bring him in and lay him before Jesus; but finding no way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the middle of the crowd in front of Jesus. When he saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.” Then the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, “Who is this who is speaking blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” When Jesus perceived their questionings, he answered them, “Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the one who was paralyzed—“I say to you, stand up and take your bed and go to your home.” Immediately he stood up before them, took what he had been lying on, and went to his home, glorifying God. Amazement seized all of them, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen strange things today.” Luke 5:12-26 (NRSV)

            Good morning, welcome. Our gospel passage today features healing, forgiveness, overcoming barriers and confrontation. For those old enough to remember, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which first became public in the early 1980’s, provides us with a good idea of what it must have been like to be a leper in Jesus’ day. AIDS patients, like lepers before them, were pariahs; people to be avoided at all costs. While the body wasted away in a slow, agonizing death, the spirit wasted away from the combination of forced solitude harsh judgement. Or worse, became hardened against God in a cruel hatred, exacerbated by a church quick to point out AIDS was God’s punishment for homosexuality. Never mind the fact the significant numbers contracted the disease from transfusions with tainted blood.  Many would say the worst part of the disease was the prolonged lack of a physical, human touch.
            I tell you this to give you an idea of what the life of a leper would have been like in Jesus’ day. Remember, the Mosaic Law declared anyone with a skin disease unclean; in fact these people were required to shout out ‘unclean, unclean’ as they walked about, lest some poor soul would accidently make contact with one of them. So here comes this leper and the first thing he says is ‘Lord, if you chose you can make me clean’. And Jesus does the one thing absolutely forbidden by religious tradition-he touches the man. Jesus is not made unclean; the leper is made clean. Immediately. Jesus sends him off to the priest as a testimony. Remember, Jesus is showing us what God is like. Evidently He is not afraid of a little one on one with society’s worst.
            The paralytic story is a little more involved. The crowds around Jesus form a barrier that the paralytic’s friends are determined to overcome. Note here it is the faith of the friends Luke mentions. When Jesus sees this He responds immediately-‘friend, your sins are forgiven’. Two important points present themselves. One, Jesus equates forgiveness with physical healing-a total restoration package. Two, Jesus does not require any special prayer; there are no special instructions to follow; no ‘go home and learn this and come back when you are ready’. Jesus recognizes faith when He sees it and responds accordingly.         
            The Pharisees, of course, take issue with Jesus’ pronouncing forgiveness. It seems barriers to faith exist mainly on the human side of things, not on the divine side. The healed man, for his part, goes home glorifying God. The crowds, filled with awe and amazement, in a classic example of understatement say: ‘we have seen strange things today’. Strange things indeed.
            We have several takeaways here, which I will leave for you to ponder. First, yet again, Jesus accepts all who come in faith. Nothing else is required. If this is a recurring theme with me it is because I believe it is a recurring theme with God as well. Which leads to our second point-faith will find a way to overcome barriers in its search for God. We can lead or we can step aside but we cannot be a barrier for long. Finally restoration of any kind is for the glory of God. And in fact, as the ancient Catechism says, we are here to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. So that’s the assignment today-enjoy God. The leper and the paralytic certainly did. And know the enjoying itself brings God glory. And joy.

May the Lord bless you and lead you this day, and bring you peace. JRG

No comments:

Post a Comment