Some of the most beautiful sounding words in English are the following: tranquil, golden, lullaby, melody, mist and rosemary. The ugliest sounding words, excluding indecent ones, are fructify, kumquat, quahog, crepuscular and cacophonous.
If we are among the included, we probably disagree with Sandburg. If we are members of exclusive clubs, living in exclusive neighborhoods and dining at exclusive restaurants, then there is no problem with being exclusive. It means having the pride of associating with people of same status. It means protecting our privacy and security.
But, when we are part of the rejected, pushed-out and marginalized in the community, exclusive becomes a very repulsive word. It has the sound of a door being slammed to your face and double bolted from the inside. Exclusive means you are not welcome here.
This is probably what the leper felt. And this is also the reason Jesus had to do something extraordinary to include those who are excluded.
The leper was ostracized. He was required to live alone and maintain fifty feet of distance from anybody. He was required to carry and ring a bell to alarm people about his presence.
What does it mean to be ignored? What does it mean to be accepted? A lot. It is inherent in our nature to be loved and brought in. It is abhorrent to be hated and left out.
The leper wants to be clean physically. Kneeling before Jesus, however, there was a higher kind of cleanliness he sought. He wanted to be accepted. Sometimes all a person needs is just a hand to touch. Sometimes all we want is just a heart that understands.
The Jewish people of his day equated cleanliness with holiness. If you were unclean, it is because you were not holy, you were sinful. Leprosy in the body means leprosy for the soul. And so, Jesus asked him to show himself to a priest, not a doctor. Leprosy is like sin. It defiles and corrupts. Being cleansed by Jesus is like the Sacrament of Confession. It heals and strengthens.
When Jesus healed the leper, two boundaries were crossed and broken. He broke the boundary prescribed by law, when the healing was done on a Sabbath. And he broke the boundary of love, when He touched the unclean leper, which made him also unclean.
As human beings, we are continually presented with two basic and natural actions: to give life and to share love. The first is a calling. The second is a challenge. Giving life is healing the leprosy. Sharing love is touching the unclean leper. The first may be easy. The second is a life changing moment.
Jesus has shown us what true love is in more ways than one. True love begins when nothing is looked for in return.
On her golden wedding anniversary, a lady was asked to reveal the secret of her long and happy marriage. She said, “On my wedding day, I decided to choose ten of my husband’s faults which, for the sake of our marriage, I would overlook. “And what would be some of his faults?” somebody asked. “To tell you the truth,” she replied, “I never did get around to listing them. But whenever my husband did something that made me really mad, I would say to myself, ‘Lucky for him that’s one of the ten.’”
The cleansing of the leper reminds us once more that Jesus stops at nothing whenever it comes to loving. God's love is always inclusive of all and exclusive of none. Like a lullaby and a melody, Christian love will always shine in its beauty. This thing called love? It will never sound ugly.
12 February 2012