Jesus restores the outcast; do we?
By Father Dominic Garramone, OSB
Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time/Feb. 14
Leviticus 13:1-2,44-46; Psalm 32:1-2,5,11; 1 Corinthians 10:31–11:1; Mark 1:40-45
This Sunday’s Gospel is part of Mark’s introduction of Jesus, in which he answers the question asked so often by the crowds seeing his deeds: “Who is this man?” Over the past few weeks, Mark has given us a variety of answers. Jesus is the Lamb of God, the Messiah; he is the one who calls disciples from ordinary men; he is the Holy One of God with authority over demons; he is the healer of bodies and souls. In today’s Gospel the answer is: Jesus is the one in search of the outcast.
We’ve all heard about how lepers were forced to live apart from the community in many societies, both ancient and modern. Among the Jewish people, where life was intensely communal and being a part of the people of Israel was one’s fundamental identity, being excluded was especially painful. Jesus affirms to the leper that he does indeed will that the outcast be restored to community life.
From our earliest years, we are obsessed with the question of who’s in and who’s out. In every level of school from kindergarten to a university graduate program, cliques form around lunch tables or athletic ability, economic levels, racial background or grade point averages. Labels are attached to people or groups, to activities, to what someone wears and the car they drive. And it doesn’t stop after graduation, it simply shifts to the workplace and the neighborhood, (and sometimes, unfortunately, the parish and the religious community).
IS JESUS WELCOME?
So if the Gospel is going to be more than just a heartwarming story, we’d better ask ourselves: Who is in or out in my life? Who are the people I have consciously or unconsciously rejected, excluded, made into an outcast? Are there people who have been wounded, sickened, by my attitudes of exclusion? Am I hearing their heartfelt declaration: “If you will it, you can cure me”?
How do I respond?
Just as important, is Jesus out or in, in my life? In my conversations, my interactions with co-workers — when the circle gathers in the breakroom, have I left any room for Jesus? In my practical decision making, my daily schedule, the family budget, in my political views, even my everyday meals, is Jesus welcome to take a seat at the table?
As do all the Gospels, Mark ultimately leads the reader to an understanding of Jesus as the outcast, the one who takes his place with sinners, and in his crucifixion, takes our place as outcasts from the grace of God, so that we can be restored to our rightful place as beloved children of God.
FATHER DOMINIC GARRAMONE, OSB, is a monk of St. Bede Abbey in Peru, where he serves as subprior and choirmaster. He also heads the religion department and serves as drama director at St. Bede Academy.