Back in the 1980’s the daughter of friends of mine was a teenager; active in sports and excelling in school,
She was a gymnast, so good in fact that there was talk of possibly trying out for the Olympics.
1. And moreover, she was beautiful, strong broad shoulders and a teeny tiny waist,
a. people always used to exclaim how pretty she was,
b. and how thin!
2. It was only later that we discovered the reason for this thinness:
3. She was bulimic.
4. The discovery of this began years of therapy
a. her parents sought to cure her of this illness
i. and restore her health
b. But they also sought to discover the reason for her illness.
5. What her family discovered
a. was what so many parents of bulimic children discover.
6. That it is precisely
a. the attention of others due to her thinness,
b. The love she was sure she would win from others,
c. The feeling of acceptance she would feel from being part of the beautiful “in” crowd
i. That caused her to throw up the food she had just eaten.
7. She so wanted to be accepted and loved,
a. however, that she began to separate herself emotionally from her family and friends
i. in order to hide her secret.
8. Her bulimia reminded us, in fact reminds us all
a. That while we might not be bulimic,
b. That the desire to be accepted and loved,
i. Will cause us to do things.
1. to the point of hurting ourselves and others
2. so that we might win the love of others.
9. We have to understand that about ourselves
a. in order to begin to understand the words of this morning’s first reading.
10. For the book of Leviticus commands
a. that a leper must separate themselves from the people of Israel;
b. to live apart, dressed like a person doing penance,
c. warning everyone, even their families,
d. who might try to come close that they were unclean.
11. Moreover since any skin disease could classify someone as a leper
a. from the actual disease called leprosy
i. to a bad case of eczema or psoriasis,
12. anyone could run the risk of being labeled as unclean and thus being
a. excluded from the families that offered them support,
b. excluded from the tribe that offered them protection and ultimately
c. excluded from God’s chosen people.
13. It seems so harsh; and yet the reason this rule was so important,
a. that it was considered part of God’s law,
i. was not because they wanted to be cruel;
b. it was because they wanted to be loved.
14. God loved the people of Israel. And Israel loved God.
15. If God called the people to be holy, to be clean,
a. not of dirt but of sin or fault,
b. to be pure not just morally but ritually
16. Well then, the people had to exclude anyone that jeopardized that holiness.
a. because that was how they expressed their desire
i. to be accepted and loved by God.
17. But Jesus had other ideas.
a. When he meets a leper in this morning’s Gospel reading,
b. he does not avoid him but approaches him.
c. does not ignore him but talks to him,
i. touches him and heals him,
ii. restoring him to his family his tribe and God’s people.
18. Little wonder Jesus got into so much trouble.
a. Not just because Jesus did not reject the leper,
i. But because he spoke with him,
ii. He touched him
b. When he did this,
i. he became unclean, like the leper.
c. and if the leper was supposed to be rejected
i. then he was too.
19. But when Jesus touches the leper,
a. Jesus does not become unclean,
b. Instead, the leper becomes clean!
20. Many might miss the point,
a. but Mark doesn’t and neither should we.
21. God’s love is expressed
a. not through exclusion.
b. but through inclusion.
c. not through rejection
d. but acceptance.
22. And thus, if we want to be faithful members of God’s people, ours must be too.
23. God offer this love to us all the time.
24. We see it in the sacraments
25. We see it In baptism, where long before we can say yes to God, God says yes to us
26. We see it In the Eucharist, where God so loves us that he gives us his only begotten Son to be our food and drink.
27. We see it especially in confession
28. Where we do what the leper did in this morning/evening’s Gospel
a. go to Jesus
b. Be honest with who we are,
i. and sincere in our desire to be accepted and loved by God.
29. And then let Jesus do with us what Jesus did with that leper;
a. Speak to us, listen to us, touch us and forgive us,
i. restoring our relationship with God and the church.
30. And all God asks of in return
a. God’s only law according to Jesus,
31. is that we do the same for others.
32. And we see it as well in this place and in places like ours
a. We see it in the charity so many here show to those in need,
b. We see it in the supposed we have shown to one another and to our neighbors during the pandemic.
c. We see it in our blessing of people preparing for their sacraments and becoming members of our Church
d. We see it in the welcome we give to new people,
e. And the acceptance we show everyone who walks through that door.
33. All of it is the way we express
a. that love which Jesus showed that leper
34. A love that
a. is not an emotion but an action
b. Not a noun, but a verb.
i. And while this might seem small and insignificant; it is not!
35. Because the acceptance that comes through love can work miracles.
36. Just ask my friend’s daughter.
37. She struggled with bulimia for years;
38. But no longer. Why?
a. She fell in love with someone who loved her for who she was,
b. not just how she looked.
39. And that accepting love made her realize
a. she did not need to punish her body.
i. In short it healed her.
40. Just imagine what it could do for others!
a. And it does,
b. every time we allow ourselves to be Jesus’ hand,
c. sharing with others,
d. what he shared with that leper, and shares with us.