My last week’s sermon was on Leviticus 13-14, which are two chapters devoted to leprosy. That means I’ve been reading a lot about skin diseases recently. So I’ve been intrigued, disgusted, ashamed, and drawn into the drama that goes into these chapters.
It’s one thing to talk about sharing our brokenness. Granted, some people don’t even want to do that. They’d rather get up and pretend all is well and we’re all fine, and the kids will grow up problemless and this is all going away by our praying/healing/prophecies/goodworks/morality.
But there’s another group that wants more than that. We’ve tasted the emptiness that faking brings, and we’re tired of it. We see far more brokenness than what anesthetized Christianity offers and we want far more grace that Christ’s hope offers. So we’re interested. We talk about talking about it at least.
Being broken though? Sharing our nothing? Identifying our disease and walking out in the open with an oozing sore instead of hiding away until it’s all better? Letting someone else touch it? That feels very much more threatening and hideous. That feels a whole different ballgame. It’s far riskier. Far messier. Far scarier.
Even if you’re a leper. But some do get healed. In Matthew 8 Jesus heals a leper who wonders if Jesus might see, hear, touch and even heal him. Jesus does. He cares and enters into the woundedness of our condition, into our very lives of brokenness. That is good news.
Archbishop Fulton Sheen realized that he could not identify with lepers, even as he served among them on mission for the church. He writes, “On one of my visits to the missions, I went to leper colony in Buluba, Africa, where there were 500 lepers. I brought with me 500 silver crucifixes, intending to give one to each of the lepers – this symbol of the Lord’s Redemption. The first one who came to meet me had his left arm eaten off at the elbow by the disease. He put out his right hand and it was the most foul, noisome mass of corruption I ever saw. I held the silver crucifix above it, and dropped it. It was swallowed up in that volcano of leprosy.
All of a sudden there were 501 lepers in that camp; I was the 501st because I had taken the symbol of God’s identification with man and refused to identify myself with someone who was a thousand times better on the inside than I. Then it came over me the awful thing I had done. I dug my fingers into his leprosy, took out the crucifix and pressed it into his hand. And so on, for all the other 499 lepers. From that moment on I learned to love them.” [Found in Treasures in Clay, Sheen, pg 127]