Saturday, February 14, 2015

Who can make me whole again?

Readings: Lev 13:1-2.44-46; Ps 32:1-2.5.11; 1 Cor 10:31-11:1; Mark 1:40-45

"I do will it. Be made clean." It's difficult for me to imagine any words Jesus could speak that would be as beautiful as these words spoken to this leper.

Time and again, after caving into what Francis Spufford, in his book, with which I have a few qualms, but one that also bothered me in all the right ways, Unapologetic: Why, Despite Everything, Christianity Can Still Make Surprising Emotional Sense, dubs the HPtFtU (i.e., Human Potential to F@*# things Up- an original name for original sin), I come to Jesus and say to Him, "If you wish, you can make me clean."

This potential, which for me is a tendency, at least with regard to certain things (more than I care admit), is more deadly than leprosy. The Lord Himself warned His followers not to "be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul," but "be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna" (Matt 10:28). As a result, I have an unhealthy fear of myself.

Never yet, even once, has Jesus withheld His mercy from me. Each time He says, "I do will it. Be made clean." I don't know why He gazes on me with such tenderness. I have no clue as to why my plight moves Him to pity. I am stubborn, prideful, recalcitrant (look it up- see 2b).

Christ Healing a Leper, by Rembrandt, 1650-55

Like Spufford, belief in God, faith in Christ, has not magically removed my HPtFtU. Quite the contrary:
I have not been told to take it easy because I'm OK and you're OK. Instead I have been shown the authentic bad news about myself, in a perspective which is so different from the tight focus of my desperation that it is good news in itself (pg 64)
That I need Jesus is good news, indeed. It's the best possible news there is, which is why, like the cured leper in today's Gospel, I can't help but tell others not only what Jesus has done for me, but what He continues to do for me, even as I try not game His love and mercy by living in a presumptive manner.

This is the Sunday before Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday is the day we acknowledge that we are dust, and unto dust we shall return. But, as Christians, we acknowledge death in the fervent hope that from dust we shall rise again, or, as St Paul stated it- "when this which is corruptible clothes itself with incorruptibility and this which is mortal clothes itself with immortality, then the word that is written shall come about:

'Death is swallowed up in victory.

Where, O death, is your victory?

Where, O death, is your sting?'" (1 Cor 15:54-55).

Jesus, I trust in You.

It's hard to believe that this is my 2,900th post here on Καθολικός διάκονος.

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