|By Fr. Brendan McGuire
Pastor of Holy Spirit Parish, San Jose and Vicar General for special projects, Diocese of San Jose. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Be Made Clean
One day a woman, Rosemary, a mother of two children, volunteered to manage the homeless kitchen for the day. She took her two little boys with her and had them play in the kitchen as she worked.
The homeless were delighted to be there and have shelter from the cold, all but one young woman. She was terrified. When she came to the food counter, she only asked for one plate. When Rosemary inquired about her child she said, “No; he is petrified after what has happened.” They had just escaped from an abusive household and only managed to get out with the clothes on their back.
Rosemary suggested that maybe she might allow her boy play with her two kids in the kitchen. The young mother reluctantly agreed.
Rosemary’s five-year-old son was the same age as this young boy and had received a brand-new pair of sneakers for Christmas. The homeless boy said, “Hey they are really cool shoes.” The other boy said, “Yeah. Maybe you could get your mother to get you a pair.” The homeless boy’s eyes looked downcast and the conversation ended.
Later Rosemary explained to her son that the boy’s mother would not be able to afford shoes because they just became homeless; they have no home and they have no place to go. After some thought, Alex asked, “Would you carry me to the car?” “Why?” asked Rosemary. “Because I want to give my new sneakers to the boy and I do not want to walk in the rain with no shoes. He needs my shoes so that he can feel more like home.” Alex took off his shoes and socks and he gave them to the boy, who smiled brightly, delighted to get this small gift.
In today’s Gospel, the leper says “…if you will it, you can make me clean.” We do not see much leprosy in our society. But there are other types of “lepers” that we push to the outskirts so that we do not have to have them in our lives. It might be somebody who has hurt us profoundly, or maybe it is a homeless person that we would just rather not see. We want to keep them on the outskirts of our lives.
Jesus shows us how to deal with those who are on the outskirts, untouchable. He did what was strictly forbidden. He reached out and touched the leper. Jesus could have done it without touching him but he deliberately reached out and touched him.
Because the man tells everyone, Jesus is now the one who cannot go into any town. Jesus is the one who is on the outskirts. He, himself, replaces the person on the outskirts.
When we decide to forgive somebody in the family, our family might push us to the outside. We might suffer the consequences for such an action. When we reach out to the homeless and those who are broken by life, we ourselves might be cast out.
This week may we tend to that one “leper” in our life. Can we give something that we have so that someone who has less can have what they need?