Sharing our hearts in friendship and acceptance

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Sharing our hearts in friendship and acceptance

Posted: Thu, 11 Feb 2021 16:04

Sharing our hearts in friendship and acceptance

This Sunday is St Valentine's Day, and it is also the day the Church has dedicated to prayer for the unemployed. Fr Gerry O'Shaughnessy SDB reflects on the Gospel story of the leper, marginalised and rejected by others but loved and cured by Jesus. (Mark 1: 40-45). Image: Bernadette Lopez via Qumran2.net

In our gospel today, we read of Jesus's encounter with the leper: in these pandemic days, with washing hands, keeping distance and wearing face masks, we have some insight into the way people with leprosy felt-they had to view the world 'at a distance.' In first century Palestine, leprosy was not only a medical condition, it was also a social blight. Lepers were unable to live with their families—they were forced out the edge of their town, living the lives of marked people. Think about the impact of that disease on the life the leper: imagine being treated with disdain by others, being pointed at, and marginalised? Are you in danger of treating others, especially those you do not like or who might be seen as 'different', with contempt?

The leper makes a direct appeal to Jesus for a cure—but only 'if you want to.' Jesus desires only goodness and full health; he desires that people are happy and can enjoy their lives to the full—of course he wants to cure the victim. In our personal relationship with God, are we willing to ask for help when we need it? We live in times in which personal sin is often made light of or blamed on others. While confessional lines might be short in church, we always begin our Eucharist with a recognition of our personal failure. We can sometimes excuse our faults by blaming others, or perhaps we point to some other sinner who is apparently 'worse' than we are and think, 'Well, at least I'm not as bad as he or she is!'

Jesus reaches out to the leper in friendship and total acceptance. It is fitting that we share this reading on the day when the whole world is 'loved up' on the feast of St Valentine. Jesus points beyond the flowers, the chocolates, romantic dinners and hearts to help understand the implications of 'love God, love your neighbour' and, never forget, care for yourself. Real Christian love means reaching out and identifying with the lepers of our society. Real Christian love means wanting the best for everyone. Real Christian love means sharing the good news that God's love is unconditional and nobody has the right to limit it.

The response of the newly-cured man is typical of so many who meet Jesus: he wants to spread this good news. The more Jesus tells him to keep quiet, the more the man wants to share healing and peace—he becomes a missionary for Jesus.

The Covid-19 pandemic is caused by a tiny virus that has brought huge global harm.

While we have witnessed amazing bravery and resilience during lockdown, we still see the intentional pain caused by those who, without justification, refuse to wear a mask or take a potentially life-saving vaccination. The virus of hurt, rejection and blame is still out there. One of the most horrible things we have witnessed over this past year, is the rise of extreme nationalism, that can lead to the curse of racism. Jesus fought against any form of exclusion, especially as it only served to belittle and make others feel unloved and unwanted.

Today is also the Day of Prayer for the Unemployed. The COVID crisis has led to the loss of many jobs, with the resulting misery this causes, both in terms of economic hardship and in the pain of feeling unwanted and rejected. Our Western societies have moved in recent decades towards blaming the poor, the low-paid and the unemployed for their own misfortunes, just as in the distant past, the sick were punished for their illnesses.

Today on this feast of St Valentine, and this Day of Prayer for the Unemployed, perhaps God is asking you to reach out to those who feel unloved and to share your heart with those beyond your family and intimate friendship group, and to make sure those close to you who may be feeling rejected because of unemployment know that you are there for them, and you value them. As we begin the season Lent on Wednesday, perhaps this could become one of the intentions that we make—it will be a real challenge and harder than giving up sugar in your cuppa, but it is one we should try to embrace in a real sense of faith. Today we can join with Pope Francis and make all forms of exclusion history:

We cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life

Pope Francis, 03/06/2020

Fr Gerry O'Shaughnessy SDB

Sixth Sunday of the Year B

14/02/2021

In our gospel today, we read of Jesus's encounter with the leper: in these pandemic days, with washing hands, keeping distance and wearing face masks, we have some insight into the way people with leprosy felt-they had to view the world 'at a distance.' In first century Palestine, leprosy was not only a medical condition, it was also a social blight. Lepers were unable to live with their families—they were forced out the edge of their town, living the lives of marked people. Think about the impact of that disease on the life the leper: imagine being treated with disdain by others, being pointed at, and marginalised? Are you in danger of treating others, especially those you do not like or who might be seen as 'different', with contempt?

The leper makes a direct appeal to Jesus for a cure—but only 'if you want to.' Jesus desires only goodness and full health; he desires that people are happy and can enjoy their lives to the full—of course he wants to cure the victim. In our personal relationship with God, are we willing to ask for help when we need it? We live in times in which personal sin is often made light of or blamed on others. While confessional lines might be short in church, we always begin our Eucharist with a recognition of our personal failure. We can sometimes excuse our faults by blaming others, or perhaps we point to some other sinner who is apparently 'worse' than we are and think, 'Well, at least I'm not as bad as he or she is!'

Jesus reaches out to the leper in friendship and total acceptance. It is fitting that we share this reading on the day when the whole world is 'loved up' on the feast of St Valentine. Jesus points beyond the flowers, the chocolates, romantic dinners and hearts to help understand the implications of 'love God, love your neighbour' and, never forget, care for yourself. Real Christian love means reaching out and identifying with the lepers of our society. Real Christian love means wanting the best for everyone. Real Christian love means sharing the good news that God's love is unconditional and nobody has the right to limit it.

The response of the newly-cured man is typical of so many who meet Jesus: he wants to spread this good news. The more Jesus tells him to keep quiet, the more the man wants to share healing and peace—he becomes a missionary for Jesus.

The Covid-19 pandemic is caused by a tiny virus that has brought huge global harm.

While we have witnessed amazing bravery and resilience during lockdown, we still see the intentional pain caused by those who, without justification, refuse to wear a mask or take a potentially life-saving vaccination. The virus of hurt, rejection and blame is still out there. One of the most horrible things we have witnessed over this past year, is the rise of extreme nationalism, that can lead to the curse of racism. Jesus fought against any form of exclusion, especially as it only served to belittle and make others feel unloved and unwanted.

Today is also the Day of Prayer for the Unemployed. The COVID crisis has led to the loss of many jobs, with the resulting misery this causes, both in terms of economic hardship and in the pain of feeling unwanted and rejected. Our Western societies have moved in recent decades towards blaming the poor, the low-paid and the unemployed for their own misfortunes, just as in the distant past, the sick were punished for their illnesses.

Today on this feast of St Valentine, and this Day of Prayer for the Unemployed, perhaps God is asking you to reach out to those who feel unloved and to share your heart with those beyond your family and intimate friendship group, and to make sure those close to you who may be feeling rejected because of unemployment know that you are there for them, and you value them. As we begin the season Lent on Wednesday, perhaps this could become one of the intentions that we make—it will be a real challenge and harder than giving up sugar in your cuppa, but it is one we should try to embrace in a real sense of faith. Today we can join with Pope Francis and make all forms of exclusion history:

We cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life (03/06/2020

Tags: Gospel, Homepage, Prayer, Salesian Spirituality, Salesians of Don Bosco