lundi, février 19, 2007

On not seeing the leper in ourselves

Learning from Jesus – total immersion
A woman… came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. Luke 8.44
There is a story of a doctor who worked devotedly among leprosy patients for many years. Every day, he would greet them, ‘Good morning, my brothers and sisters’. What an affirmation of worth this must have been to those whose biological families, and whole society, had ostracised them. But one day his greeting changed, and they heard these doom-laden words, ‘Good morning, my fellow lepers’. His identification with his patients was complete.
Jesus’ incarnation was a similar kind of identification. Laying aside his divine majesty, he took on mortal flesh, and entered human society. ‘Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity’, wrote the author of Hebrews.
But Jesus did more even than that. As he went about, he identified himself not only with human nature but also with uncleanness, sin and death. When the desperate woman, suffering from incurable bleeding, reached out and touched his robe, Jesus could have ignored her. But in acknowledging her touch he was, according to the Levitical law, making himself ritually unclean. On other occasions, he took the initiative, as when he touched a man with leprosy and the dead body of a widow’s only son. And ultimately ‘Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”’ (Gal.3:13).
How far such actions set Jesus apart from the gods of other religions! I hope that it is not irreverent to say that I would find it hard to believe in a loving God if it wasn’t for Jesus.
Jesus’ self-abasement is, however, far more than an argument for our view of God. It gives us deep assurance of Jesus’ love for individuals – for you and me, for thug and granny, for prostitute and pimp, for president and pop star. Far more intimately than any human friend or relation, Jesus knows, understands and loves us, and wants to help us to become what he created us to be.
But we can also learn from Jesus to regard and treat people – all people – with the same passionate empathy and self-giving love.
Helen Parry

When I read this mediation from the London Institute on Contenmporary Christianity I thought about a recent story I had heard about a young priest and father. Hired at a large, prosperous church not very far from here, he had apparently had a falling out with the rector. Within six months he was gone.

Personality conflict? Perhaps. Was he stubborn? Did he refuse to listen when admonished? Who knows? The whole situation is cloaked in the kind of legal darkness that has become almost as much a part of the church nowadays as the Eucharist. The only thing that is clear is that the thirty-something priest did not do something immoral. It is also apparent that his boss had been in conversation with another clergyman about the possibility of a job for a number of months.

Coincidence? So claims the chief priest-I mean the chief minister.

Jesus does love this young man and his family. I suppose, because He is God, and so far beyond anything I can imagine, Jesus also loves the man who fired him. Parishioners really like the 'family man' who was brought in-just as the other man's family left town. Why should they protest?

Why should they speak out-except that it is right to ask questions in the face of an apparent injustice?

It is only if we see the leper in the mirror that we will stand up for those who are outcasts, unpopular, or persecuted by those in power. But we don't like to see the missing pieces, the tired eyes, the anxiety that looks back at us. So we smear on the makeup to make ourselves look like the person we'd like to be. Or we choose never to look-afraid of the man or woman who might stare back at us.

The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity St Peter's, Vere St, London, W1G 0DQ (t) 020 7399 9555 (e) Visit for articles and events listings.

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