“ Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight: wish I may, wish I might have the first wish I see tonight.” How many countless children have chanted this over the years? Some even take it quite seriously; even though they know that the wish probably won’t come true. The same might be said for making a wish before blowing our birthday candles out. Wishes don’t usually come true. Yet, all of us, young and old alike – make wishes our whole life long. Maybe it’s just a fun game. But, maybe, just maybe, once in a while a wish comes true. Some people wish for simple things of no consequence, maybe like a new toy and others wish for huge things of grave consequences perhaps like a tumor will be benign. In today’s gospel, the leper’s, “If you wish” to Jesus was more than a childhood chant.
When the leper in the gospel says “If you wish,” we can imagine that he is implying more than that Jesus has a choice to heal or not. He is hoping against hope that his own wish to be clean would be fulfilled. Jesus has proven his power.
Jesus was moved with pity. What moved Jesus to make the leper clean? Perhaps the leper’s sorry condition.
Perhaps the leper’s isolation in being an outcast.
Perhaps Jesus, inspite of Jesus’ command to “tell no one anything.”
Jesus knew that the leper would not be able to keep the good news of his healing quiet. And yes, the leper publicizes the whole matter. In our terms, the leper proclaims the gospel. Perhaps Jesus healed the leper because he recognized one who would be a disciple and spread the good news.
Jesus wished that the leper be made clean. And so it was. He had the power to heal. But more important, he had the mercy and Jesus was announced to all by this leper outcast, who now had become a disciple.
Jesus commands the leper to tell no one. The leper tells everyone. Jesus’ commissions to us is tell everyone the good news – do we tell no one? The message of good news in “believing who we are and what we do.”
“A World larger than your heart.”
In John Drinkwater’s play Abraham Lincoln, this exchange takes place between President Lincoln and a northern woman, an anti-confederate zealot. Lincoln tells her about the latest victory by northern forces – the confederate army lost 2700 men while union forces lost 800. The woman is ecstatic, “How splendid, Mr. President!”
Lincoln is stunned at her reaction. “But madam, 3500 human lives were lost!”
“Oh, you must not talk like that, Mr. President. There were only 800 that mattered.” Lincoln’s shoulders drop as he sways slowly and emotionally,” Madam, the world is larger than your heart.”
Connection: Our attitudes and perceptions, our view of the world often reduces others to “lepers” – those we fear, those who don’t fit our image of sophistication and culture, those whose religion or race or identity or belief seem to threaten our own. We exile these lepers to the margins of society outside our gates. We reduce these lepers to simple labels and stereotypes. We reject these lepers as to be “unclean” to be part of our lives and our world.
The Christ who heals lepers comes to perform a much greater miracle – to heal us of our debilitating sense of self that fails to realize the sacredness and dignity of those we demean as “lepers” at our own gates.
We can make them clean by transforming our own attitudes and perspective. We can make them “clean” by reaching out to them as God reaches out to us. We can make them “clean” by the simplest acts of kindness and respect.