A few years ago a string of movies came out that all seemed to revolve around the theme of different worlds colliding. Each movie tended to have a large cast of famous actors representing people from different strata of society – rich/poor, black/white, newly arrived immigrant/born in the country, inner city/suburban, liberal/conservative, whatever cultural war delineation one could come up with it was found in these films. Something would happen, usually traumatic and often violent (a car crash, a misfired rifle shot), and these separate worlds would all of a sudden be brought into crashing contact with one another. The movie would then go on to explore how these moments of unexpected encounter changed all persons involved giving, sometimes, a deeper awareness of the common human condition.
In today’s gospel (Mk. 1:40-45), there are also worlds colliding but it is not violent. A leper and therefore an outcast, comes before a religious teacher who epitomizes the very system of belief that excludes him. A wounded and ill creature comes before the very one who is Creator and Lord. One who is seeking mercy comes before Mercy itself.
There is no violence because Christ as “God made flesh” is not in competition with creation. God is not like us – one creature among other creatures needing to claim his own space by limiting the space of other creatures. God is the very source of creation itself. God is non-competitive with his very creation. God is non-competitive with humanity. The presence of God in life does not limit the creature’s own flourishing; rather the presence of God enables the creature to truly flourish. God does not limit my freedom, rather when I allow God into my life his presence enables me to truly become whom I am meant to be.
The leper in today’s gospel seems to intuit this truth. “If you wish, you can make me clean … I do will it. Be made clean.”
One of the points that the genre of movies mentioned earlier makes is that often we live our lives in our own world, in our own bubbles. To some extent this is natural and necessary. We get into our own rhythms in order to get things done, we have our particular group of friends and family, we certainly want to protect and shelter those we care about. This is all good. The danger comes when the bubbles we live in begin to restrict the horizon and possibility of the gospel. We don’t see the poor, we rush past the sick, we become blind to the lonely and the elderly. We get so focused in that we fail to see out!
The Gospel continually invites us to see out, to look away from self, to go to the peripheries and to set our lives not by the limits that our world would impose in how it thinks we are supposed to live our lives but by the horizon of the gospel. Notice the poor, don’t rush past the sick and ill, be aware of the one who is lonely and the elderly! Be open to encounter with the other because often this can be a point of grace and even healing in life!
Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, is fully aware of this gospel truth and this is why he continues to call the Church to the peripheries. He knows that Christ can be found there often in the most unexpected of ways. He also knows that the Church is continually revitalized by this encounter.
This weekend at our Saturday vigil and Sunday 12:30 pm Mass we are offering the Sacrament of Anointing for any parishioner in need of physical, emotional or spiritual healing. As a community and a family we are taking a moment to acknowledge the periphery of illness that is often right before us yet, one we often choose to rush past. We are making the choice to notice and we are making the choice to lift up our brothers and sisters in prayer. We are making the choice to set our life as a community by the horizon of the gospel. This is a holy and good thing to do.