Last week we received a Valentine's Day card from our gracious and passionate God. His great passion for humankind was presented to us in that wonder-full encounter between Jesus and the leper. The leper, the outcast, the alienated one, was touched by Him who came to bring every one, and everything, into a oneness. In that touching there was instant, immediate transformation. Lives were forever changed. One was reunited with the family of humankind, The Other became the alienated One, condemned to a life of isolation. He who created all that is, is now forced to live apart from His greatest creation.
What was the trigger for this wonder-full, incomprehensible, exchange of realities? It was pity. As we read the scriptures we see, in so many of the miracles of Jesus, first of all a human response to a human need, on the part of Jesus. To describe the healthy, and so, holy feeling response the word pity is used. That word pity shows up again and again wherever the power of the divinity is revealed. Jesus, when He is told that Lazarus, His good friend was dead, what did He do first? He cried. (The shortest sentence in the Bible.) He did not say, "No sweat. I will go and work a miracle. Just relax and I will take care of everything." No. First came the human response. He embraced His feelings publically. The sorrow He felt, and felt deeply, was expressed openly. There was no effort to hide it. We have so much to learn about the process of grieving. In another instance, Jesus is moved to pity to see the only son of a widow being borne out from the city of Naim. Again, that human response was followed by a raising from the dead. We see there is a human need, followed by a human response, followed by the manifestation of divine power.
We now have to ask ourselves what is that part of me, the leper within, that needs the empathy, compassion, that was extended to the many in the scriptures? We all have that need. Why? Because, this demands honesty, we all have within us that from which we want to isolate from. It is that part of our inner self, our inner reality, where we experience alienation. That is the part that is dead to life. Because of this we exist, we do not live. What do we need? We need a life saving, a life giving encounter, with a Source, so much greater than we are. How does this happen? We embrace often with great, great difficulty, exhortation of St. Francis, "Kiss the leper within". We have to show love, or just have the desire to show love, to that part we/l am driven to abhor. This, as I have said, is anything but easy. We have to face that which wants to keep un-free, locked away in the dungeon of despair, just waiting, not to live, but to expire. We have to face the deadly, insidious power of toxic shame.
Toxic shame is the source of that that is unhealthy. All that is death dealing, finds its roots in toxic shame. Toxic shame wants to destroy that which we find so difficult to accept and embrace. Because of the manifestation of "the leper within”, we are lead to judge ourselves as, “LESS THAN”. (This is what is called a shame attack.) We have to deal with the feelings of not being "good enough". We are so afraid to own the “leper part”, because we have never been given the right to be anything less than perfect. It has never been ok not to be ok. What a "hell on earth" that is. Healthy shame gives one the permission to be human. Healthy shame enables us to own the fact we are all PERFECTLY IMPERFECT. When we are not claiming that reality, we are as the result, scared of going inside ourselves, of going deep. We are afraid of what else will be revealed. This unnecessary fear, deprives us of the spiritual journey, which is all about going deep. As we are led into the depths where we discover the beauty hidden within the depths of who we really are. When this does not occur, we then settle for an existence based on religiosity. This keeps us isolated from who we really are, limited human beings. There are then unreasonable demands and expectations placed on us. If these demands and expectations are not met, boy do we go into the dumper. (A classic shame attack.) This keeps us locked up in the prison of guilt and fear, which are so often the companions of death dealing previously mentioned - shame. This brings about spiritual paralysis.
The leper brought himself to Jesus. What an act of courage and faith that was. Ever notice that courage and faith somehow compliment each other. Can you have one without the other? The paralytic was brought into the presence. To get him into the presence of Jesus, these buddies of his had to use some real ingenuity. They were not going to let a little obstacle like a roof get in the way. What, then, are our excuses, not reasons, for keeping ourselves in isolation and alienation? What are the feelings of toxic shame we allow, yes, we allow, to deprive ourselves of life and the fullness of life. This "fullness of life” is what our God wishes for us and has placed within us. He has placed His treasure deep, deep within. We must ask for the faith and courage to allow ourselves to believe this great miracle of grace. Yes it is up to each one to allow the shower of endless, pity and compassion to wash over us. The next time you take a shower, here is something to do and then continue to practice. As the water is flowing, think of some aspect of pity you need at that moment or at this stage in your life. Some days it will be compassion, other days empathy, or maybe it is sympathy, a sense of a deep felt sorrow. All these must be first directed to the "leper within”. We will then be led to realize what is offered to others comes from the depths where the leper, the paralytic, the deaf, the lame, the blind, the dumb and The Risen Healer, all dwell as one.