Ordinary 6

The Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
2015 – Cycle B
Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46; Psalm 32; 1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1; Mark 1:40-45

absalom 1

“My son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom!  If only I had died instead of you, Absalom, my son, my son!”  [2 Samuel 18:33] Is there not a parent who would not be willing to trade places with their child who is sick or dying?  I have heard similar words in my hospital ministry. The words are those of King David on hearing of the death of his rebellious son, Absalom. …willing to trade places with another person. When a prisoner escaped from the Auschwitz concentration camp, the Nazis selected ten other prisoners to be killed by starvation in reprisal for the escape. One of the ten selected to die was Franciszek Gajowniczek who began to cry: My wife! My children! I will never see them again! A Polish priest, prisoner 16770, stepped forward. Maximilian Maria Kolbe asked to die in his place. …willing to trade places with another person. Maximillian 2 The depth of identification with another person where two become one; it is the same imagery we use in regard to the bond of wife and husband in marriage. The depth of compassion, to suffer with, to take on another person’s suffering and pain…willing to trade places with another person. This is what we see Jesus do today. He heals the man with leprosy by trading places. The Book of Leviticus clearly states that leprosy, understood as any break or discoloration of the skin, places a person outside of the community. This ritual impurity, this imperfection was thought to affect the holiness of the entire group. Like a disease, the person that is unclean can infect the community and thus a ritually impure person must dwell apart. We do this with people who have contagious diseases. How does Jesus trade places with the man? Jesus makes a small but significant gesture in healing the man with leprosy. Jesus stretches out his hand and touches the man. In touching a person who is ritually impure, you yourself become unclean. Thus while the man is healed and may now return to the community; Jesus is unclean and must remain in deserted places. Thus Jesus willingly trades places with the man taking on his leprosy, his ritual impurity, his alienation. This divine and compassionate exchange is the purpose of the Incarnation; of what we honour at Christmas: the eternal, incomprehensible God becomes human. God trading places with us taking on our vulnerability and our sin, and thus in the flesh God will die. Paul states it this way:  “For our sake God made Christ to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Christ.”  [2 Corinthians 5:21] To be the righteousness of God in Christ is the other half of this divine exchange. The parent is willing to take on sickness and death so their child might live. Maximillian takes on Nazi revenge so that Franciszek might live. Jesus takes on uncleanliness and alienation so that the man with leprosy might be healed and returned to the community. Jesus takes on our brokenness and sin that we might be alive in God. That is what a crucifix depicts for us – this divine exchange!  Jesus’ body is broken that we might be healed.  Jesus’ blood is spilt that we might be washed clean.  Jesus’ relationships are shredded that we might never be alone.  The crucifixion: Jesus willingly trading places with us as we look upon him in a deserted place. crucified 1 How often do we identify – trade places – with people rather than detaching ourselves and just feeling sorry for them? Whose pain, whose agony, whose alienation do you and I need to assume that a person may live more fully? Jesus is the compassion of God. Do we strive to become that compassion in imitation of Christ? “My son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom!  If only I had died instead of you…!”  [2 Samuel 18:33]  

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