Lectionary Reflection: February 15, 2009
- Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46
- 1 Corinthians 10:31–11:1
- Mark 1:40-45
Thoughts for your consideration:
“Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.”” In this weeks Gospel reading this phrase jumps out at me. Jesus expresses two social values with this encounter with the leper.
The first value he expresses is compassion. Compassion is derived from the Latin cum-patire which means to suffer with. Compassion is quite unlike pity. In taking pity you are moved by some experience of suffering but pity does not entail an active response. However if you express compassion then you are moving into the realm of action. Had the passage read “Moved with pity Jesus shook his head and walked on,” then pity would have been all that Jesus would have expressed. But instead Jesus expresses a compassion where he actively suffers with this person by touching him, an act which would have rendered Jesus unclean.
In showing compassion Jesus also expresses another social value, solidarity. Leviticus reminds us that a leper was cast out of the community. This was not an act of biblical oppression; rather it was a way to preserve the overall health of the larger community. The leper places his social status on the will of Jesus who represents the will of God. Jesus expresses verbally to the leper that the will of God is to be in solidarity with all who are marginalized and exiled from being part of the human community. He brings the leper back into right relationship.
Above you will find some quotes regarding Catholic and Christian social teaching. The teaching by Pope Benedict XVI through his recent encyclical, Spe Salvi, is very informative on our social responsibility of promoting solidarity through an ethic of compassion. It bears highlighting one more time.
A society unable to accept its suffering members and incapable of helping to share their suffering and to bear it inwardly through “com-passion” is a cruel and inhuman society.
This value continues to support the Catholic social value of developing a preferential option for the poor. This Catholic social principle has encountered some difficulties based on our distaste for discussing issues of classism between the rich and poor. So instead Pope Benedict has taken this principle and changed the subject to be the suffering members. We do not have to make a list of who are the suffering members. Like Jesus we will know the suffering members of society when we too are “moved with pity.” But as Jesus did and as Pope Benedict suggest we must individually and as a society move from pity to an active value of compassion whereby we suffer with our marginalized neighbors and bring them into solidarity with the entire human community.
Questions for Reflection in your Faith Sharing Group:
- When have you observed or been part of a group of people being “left out” because of some form of discrimination? Have you experienced some healing of this division?
- In the gospel Jesus heals the person who is ill. He makes some “clean.” How would you describe the cleansing or absolving or healing that is needed in our social situation today?