It seems fitting to me that my first venture into the noisy world of the blog-o-sphere is a reflection on the readings from the Mass this past Sunday concerning Leprosy; since I am pretty sure this blog will be on the fringe of the blogging community as the leper was to Israel.
Perhaps there is a reason why most people know about the times that Christ healed the lepers. Even non-Christians and even those who have not read anything in Scripture seem to know about the lepers. They know that they were segregated from the people in the Old Testament and they know that Jesus healed them in the New Testament. But just knowing these facts doesn't explain why it has left such an imprint in the minds of all who have heard about this reality. It seems to me that in this image of the Leper more than any other image in Scripture we see ourselves, as if in a mirror, in a way that is, on the one hand, disturbing and, on the other hand, intoxicatingly hopeful.
In the Leper we most clearly see ourselves in the words of Scripture. This is the secret of the Leper. Hidden within the folds of his tattered and torn garments, rent by his own hands we find our true selves. Not the selves that we display to the world, but, rather, the afflicted person behind the mask of the persona. He unveils us. He is a revelation of ourselves to ourselves. He is the weakness that we meet in our own eyes when we give sufficient time for self reflection. He is the inner yearning of our very human heart who feebly raises spotted, unclean hands to the heavens burning for a salve - a savior. The Leper is burned into our minds because he disturbs our self-disregard. He forces us to confront our weakness in the face of torment and surrender to that very weakness for which there is only one response - the response of hope.
Hope is such a fragile thing. Hope is in the Leper because he has no power over his plight. He is doomed to a sorrow not of his own making. He was born of health and then one day we was born again into corruption. We know this. We feel this in our very fiber of being. We have no control and so seek to control all that we may not. Seeking satisfaction in denying our leprosy by bringing others into the foul reek of our sickness. But we have no power to save and since we yearn to be like God we strive for this mastery of others and self not for ill but for what we conceive to be good. But each time our weakness denies our strength and we collapse under the weight of our own good intentions. Hope is fragile because it is so easily lost. Hope can be shattered into a thousand pieces by a mere glance, a single word. It can be buried by the avalanche of responsibilities placed upon us or stolen by the theft of mortality. Hope is not as stable as charity nor as firm as faith but is like a crystal bobble in the hands of an infant. It is something we know not how to preserve. But yet every Leper hopes!
The Leper who has lived long enough in his own demise has mourned the loss of the perception of his own power. He cannot control is ill. He cannot will his skin to health. He has not the beauty to abide his own reflection and is bitter toward the health he perceives in others. But he hopes for an anointing of his flesh by some yet unknown power that will condescend to him, an outcast, and do that which he himself cannot do. He has no cause for hope but yet he hopes. He hears rumors of the possibility of health and he hopes. When Christ heals the Leper we catch a glimpse of our own hope of salvation as his hope, our hope!, becomes a reality. This is the rumor of our own possibility of hope and so we are transfixed by the healed Leper and yearn. This is why the Leper cannot contain himself though the Lord enjoined him to remain silent. That which was impossible was done - hope was realized. The world is not large enough for his response!
Hope is fragrant oil and Christ is the burning flame that gives it its own purpose. The Leper cannot heal himself but he is healed by the unfathomable flame of Divine Love. This is why we can't place our hope in other things or people because they have to power to heal our inner weakness. They cannot reach into our heart and reform it into living flesh. They did not fashion, so too, they cannot refashion. It is the Lord who both makes and remakes, reproves and heals, brings into being and brings into fullness of being. King David cries out: "Put not your trust in princes, but in the Lord." He knew. If our hope lies in the hands of princes it will shatter or be stolen but if our hope is in the Lord it will be elevated and brought to realization. This too is why Christianity and Christians fail people so often. Those who seek see in Christ the hope of healing but that hope, that fragile thing is so easily broken. We destroy the hope of these little ones who come seeking hope in their own way by trying to be their hope instead of being their guide to Him who is our only Hope. We must say, "I too am a Leper in need of an Anointed Anointer." I cannot realize my own hope by my own work. Why then do I think that I may realize the hope of others? The Leper sought out Christ and Christ healed the Leper. Gather, then, the Lepers in their despair and hope and lead them to the Lord who will anoint us all with the oild of gladdness and fulfill our one true hope.