Thursday, February 12, 2009

Meditation on this Week's Gospel

The readings for Sunday, February 15, 2009:

First Reading: 2 Kings 5:1-14

Psalm: Psalm 30

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Gospel: Mark 1:40-45

Today's readings revolve around healings. The Old Testament reading shows Naaman, who almost refuses a healing experience, because it involves a simple bath in a humble river. He wanted something grander and glorious. We might think about how many times we get in the way of our own health and wholeness by refusing to believe that the process can be so easy.

The Gospel lesson shows Jesus healing a leper. Those of us in the 21st century forget what Jesus is doing by this healing. We don't have complicated purity laws. By touching the leper, and by the leper telling everyone, Jesus effectively exiles himself. He cannot stay in town because by touching the impure, he makes himself impure.

I love this vision of God. God doesn't take on human form in order to tell us how icky we are. God comes to us in the form of Jesus and chooses to be with the most outcast of the outcast. When presented with a choice, Jesus makes it clear that God chooses to be with the lowly and the exile.

And here, in this Gospel story, the people leave their human communities to go be with Jesus. I wonder if that should be a lesson to us as well. We are not likely to find God in the hallways filled by powerful people. We will find God in the outposts of civilization, in the crumbling corners of human empires.

That doesn't mean that we're forbidden to hang out with the powerful. Indeed, some of us might see it as our mission to hang out with the powerful, to remind them of their duty to the poor and downtrodden. One wonders how this current economic crisis might have turned out differently, had we not left Wall Street to the powerful men. I'm seeing lots of interesting articles about how women might have made a difference, had they been a presence on Wall Street. I wonder the same about Christians.

The problem with the powerful is that they soon see themselves as gods, and they expect the rest of us to treat them like they are gods amongst us. And anyone who knows their literary history knows what happens when humans see themselves as gods: the gods step in to crush them, to remind them of their lowly status.

What a different story we have with our Gospel lesson, our God amongst us. We have our God, who prefers a lowly status. We have our God, who has a choice, and who chooses the sickest of the sick.

If we're not the sickest of the sick, it doesn't mean that God doesn't want to be with us. It does mean that we might have to make an extra effort, to be with the sick, which we might not like, because it might remind us of our frailty.

The outcast of civilization have a gift that doesn't come to the rest of us so easily. The rest of us find it easy to believe that we have accomplished all that we have and accumulated all that we have because of our skills, talents, and gifts. We don't like to admit that much of our present status has to do with luck--we were born to the right parents at the right time or we had other advantages that others didn't. We like to think that we have a certain power--and if we're not careful, we come to think of ourselves as gods--and then why bother to have a relationship with God, if we're so fabulous?

The dispossessed labor under no delusions. They have seen the underside of power. They understand that humans who think that they are gods can do dreadful harm. They know that they need God.

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