10.09.16: Jesus, heal us
Homily from the 7:30, 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. Masses at St. Mary's Church in Griffith, Ind.
We're all lepers in some way.
It was 11th grade English class. My teacher asked each of us to write about our "disability." We were told to write a paper about that one aspect of ourselves that holds us back in some way. Maybe it's a physical disability that prevents us from fully engaging in an activity. Maybe it's some sort of defense mechanism that prevents us from truly being known to others. Maybe it's something we're struggling with that we just can't bring to the light. We all wrote our papers, and were invited to share with the class if we wanted.
I heard about struggles I'd never known. Some of the ladies in class were struggling with their body image and battling an eating disorder. Some of us guys struggled with insecurities and not measuring up to a standard set by society, our parents, or even worse, the standard we set for ourselves. We all had our issues. We all had our own leprosy, that aspect of self that puts a mark on us and makes us feel unclean, makes us feel less than whole.
"Jesus, Master, have pity on us."
We don't like the word "pity" because it makes us feel weak, right? Admitting weakness in our world is a bad thing. As people of faith, though, we believe differently. It's only when we admit our weaknesses that we discover our strength. And, if we take a look at what the lepers in today's Gospel are saying, we see they're asking for God's mercy, God's compassion. Yes, they're asking God to feel sorry for them. In those times, leprosy was pretty much the worst disease you could have. You were unclean - visibly - and anyone who came into contact with you, they were unclean, too. There was no hope for these people. They were social isolates. They were not just alone, but they were lonely.
Yet, these lepers had something inside them that so many others did not. That they asked Jesus to help them, to have compassion upon them, to pity them, tells us that they had faith in him, that they saw the divine in him. They believed when others said it was foolish. They had faith in him when others wrote him off--- and he saved their lives.
Friends, it's time for a gut check. How's your faith? Is it the source of your joy? Is it the rock that keeps you grounded when a storm around you and inside of you is swirling? Do you rely on God? Or do you rely on yourself? And if you do, how's that working out for you?
We have to ask ourselves these tough questions every once in a while, because real faith, meaningful faith has to get stirred every now and then to be worth anything.
Friends, we are called and chosen to be Christ for one another. When you see one of your brothers and sisters in distress, our mission as Church is to bring that loving compassion, that mercy of God that we see Jesus bringing to the leper to those who feel as though they're the least of his people. Use the faith you've found to reshape the world around you. That's true discipleship.
What we receive here - in the Word and in the Eucharist - is a great gift, and just as the lepers gave thanks to God for healing them of their every ill, we're about to give thanks to our God in the very meal that by definition is "thanksgiving."
Trust in the Lord. Have faith. Let it move you and shake you to change your life, to change your world. And when our work here is done and our joy is filled, may we give thanks for what we've been given and hear the same words Christ said to the leper:
"Stand up and go, your faith has saved you."