Sybil 1997

Gospel text

Mark 1: 40-45

40 A leper goes to Jesus and, kneeling, begs him: "If you want, you are able to purify me. 41 Moved with compassion, Jesus extends his hand to touch him: "Yes, I want it, be purified. 42 And immediately the leprosy went away, and he was cleansed. 43 But immediately, Jesus became angry with him and expelled him with these words: "Take care not to say anything to anyone, but go and show yourself to the priest and bring for your purification what Moses commanded, so that one can confirm everything. 45 After leaving Jesus, he began to multiply the public announcements and spread the news, so that it was no longer possible for Jesus to openly enter a city, but he remained outside, in desert regions. However people came from everywhere to meet him.


We are healing

Gospel commentary - Homily

The true face of oneself

In this morning's newspaper, I see the face of Margaret, a woman who is currently on the banner headline: she has just been handcuffed following a police chase and criminal charges. She is in her forties, but she could be given another ten years. It is a ravaged face that reflects a being uncomfortable in her skin. Close to her, her daughter, who looks at her with love and tries to console her. To avoid prison, she will have to re-enter the rehab, her thirteenth. Everything could be relegated to trivial news item, except that this woman is the sister of a rich and important businessman, as was his father. Despite this family context, in my mind, I associate it with all those penniless drug addicts who find themselves without shelter, without fixed homes and whom the Kogaluc center, in the Gatineau countryside, is welcoming. Rich or poor, human distress is present in everyone.

It is in this context that I reread the story of the leper proposed by this Sunday's Gospel. Behind the leprosy, we can see all our weaknesses, our handicaps, our addictions, which gnaws at us from the inside and disfigures our face, all that prevents us from being a full member of the human community and to offer what we have of unique. In the leper, there is a little bit of me and a little of my neighbor. What we remember from the Gospel story is the almost magical healing of the leper by Jesus. And if there was nothing magical in this story ... And if the good news had a color a little different from what we imagine ...

Let's not forget that our leper is making a move: he has recognized his illness, he is suffering from it and he wants to get rid of it; with all his being he calls for a change. All this may seem obvious, but part of the healing is there. Do not assume that this desire for change is present in all those who are marked by illness or disability. How many alcoholics or drug addicts are unable to recognize their problem? Often, it takes a very painful event or a very violent shock so that one finally look at himself in the mirror. It is possible that seeing her drug addiction in the open and finding herself on the threshold of prison will be the salutary shock that will lead Margaret to face herself.

Yet simply recognizing leprosy and wanting healing is not enough. It takes faith. It is faith that leads us to turn to someone else and say, "If you want, you can heal me." For after recognizing our leprosy, we also recognized that we were unable to cope alone. Faith allows this relationship of trust with someone else, faith allows you to see yourself with the other's eyes. When a drug addict in Kogaluc used to say, "I'm just a prison guy," he would receive this reply, "no, you're Brian". When Jesus says, "I want it, be purified," he actually says, "I want you to be all that I see of you."

So far, however, we have only touched half of the story of the leper. Surprisingly, after healing, Jesus roughs the ex-leper and chases him away. He gives it somehow a kick in the ass. Why? Of course, he wants him to meet the religious authorities in order to formalize his social reintegration. But there is a lot more. Jesus attacks head-on a trap waiting for all healed people: to see healing as a point of arrival, and not as a point of departure, and to become locked in a new dependency. Let's look at a number of these people who call themselves, "Born again," many of whom have been healed from some sort of toximanism. All of a sudden, they feel apart with a privileged relationship with God, congeal themselves in a certain rigid moral order and their relationship to Jesus bear the same traits of dependence that they had with their old drug addiction. Both our picture with leprosy and without it must continue to be part of us, and this distance between the two pictures is the symbolic indicator of the entire path that remains to be traveled. This is the meaning of the silence demanded by Jesus to the leper: do not stop at the event of your healing, continue your journey.

The Eucharist celebrates our joy of being healed and being integrated into a family. But it is also a "mass", i.e. a sending, because the road is still long.


-André Gilbert, Gatineau, October 2005