The Leper in our midst

Yesterday was Holy Thursday (Maundy Thursday). Last night at mass, a stranger wandered in, no shoes, raggedy jeans, flannel shirt over a T-shirt, clutching a cup holding pencils. He’s been sitting out front for an hour or so, rocking gently. OK, so I didn’t go over and check on him. I waved as I pulled into the driveway to get ready for mass. My impression was that he was sitting there, enjoying a spring evening, with a soda. That’s me. That’s what I saw.

Then he came in just after mass started. Can’t say I wasn’t a bit uneasy. I been there when other men have wandered in looking for money, food, a place to stay. They are often erratic. I head news about shootings – makes me cautious. After Fr. gave a very brief homily, this guys gets out of the pew, and walks to the front, hands the cup to the priest, turns and begins to talk. That was my most uneasy moment. Not fear of disease, not fear of physical danger… but fear that this guy would launch into a fundamentalist tyraid. That was my fear. He had a look that said to me “I’m about to hammer this papist, statue worshipping, RC bunch of pagans.” That’s not what he was meaning to portray, but that’s what I saw. I saw my own fears.

To get on with the story, he was there as a “plant” – to challenge the community. Not in the way I feared. Most of his monologue consisted of becoming the Leper touched by Jesus. He became a man who hadn’t been touched in 5 years because he was unclean. It was a powerful presentation, to say the least.

To get to the meat of the matter, I have to face my own fears. I don’t know what others saw, but I know what fears I reflected. Why did I see a fundamentalist preacher? Why did that scare me? I’m pretty good about seeing beyond alcoholism (lot’s of practice getting to that point); I’m pretty good at seeing beyond depression, HIV, physical limitations, poverty. Not great, but at least very aware that I have to see beyond those situations. But, I really have problems seeing beyond certain religious attitudes.

People who see the world as “Black and White” are a real challenge. I’m so good at saying “God is Love – God’s loves each and every one of us. We are precious in Her site.” I’m not so good at reflecting that love to those who can’t see past hard and fast laws, those who seem [to me] to sit in judgement of the rest of us who are muddling through, trying to respond to Jesus as the Way – not the church laws as the way, not codified absolute moral laws as the way. While I appreciate the WWJD bracelets (What would Jesus Do) I tend to approach it more as WWJB (what/who would Jesus BE).

And so – there’s more work to do here. I’ve been set back and told to look closely at my own judgemental self. It’s good to reflect on how far I have come toward allowing God to be the Judge, and distressing to see just how far I have yet to go. Maybe, if I face the judgement in my self head on, I can face it in others without anger and fear. If I can learn to love the “me I hide”, maybe I can learn to love the “You you hide.”

And today we relive the ultimate sacrifice – tonight we come face to face with a love so strong that it stayed on a cross. A love that said “Do what you must do, Friend.” A love that didn’t seem to jive well with those who live strictly by the rules, who clean the outside of the cup but not the inside, but loved them anyway. A love that was willing to go to Hell and back.

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