By Lindsay Schlegel
Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.”
~ Mark 1:41
On the cusp of Lent, today’s Gospel shows Christ’s unflinching willingness to heal and to save. Jesus is “moved with pity” at the request of the leper, and he “stretched out his hand” to heal him, which is a way bigger deal than the contemporary mind may think.
The first reading shows us that lepers were supposed to cry out “Unclean!” to warn other people to stay away from them. No one touched a leper. Jesus’s followers must have been horrified to see him make this move (in fact, an episode of The Chosen portrays just that).
But of course, Jesus doesn’t care what other people think. He sees much deeper into every human being.
Lepers and Valentines
Interestingly, in 1969, the Church removed St. Valentine from the Liturgical calendar because of conflicting and unreliable information of St. Valentine’s life. However, the Church still recognizes him as a saint, listing him in the February 14 Roman Martyrology.
Although we won’t be celebrating St. Valentine during Mass tomorrow, I hope there is chocolate in your future—you can be certain there is in mine! More importantly, I hope you give and receive real, true love: love that sees the way God sees.
I give this kind of love most easily to my children. I have loved them since before they were born, and I continue to love them without conditions. I have experienced a reawakening of the kind of unearned, merciful love God has for me in being their mother. And it’s made me strive to give that kind of love to others, no matter the wounds they carry.
Seeing Myself as God Sees Me
On the other hand, I find it most difficult to give this kind of love to myself. I am well acquainted with my failings. I know my sins and shortcomings. I am aware that I don’t give of myself as freely as I ought. Sometimes that makes me want to shy away from God.
But today’s reading reminds me that God doesn’t see those blemishes the way I do. He doesn’t see them as stumbling blocks. He sees them as a reality of the human condition, and when I ask Him to allow me to see myself through His eyes, I see they are an opportunity to rely on Him rather than on myself.
We all have those times when we feel unworthy and unclean, and we don’t feel healing is possible. Let’s take a lesson from the leper today and remember that there is nothing that can’t be redeemed. There is nothing too big to get between God and His children. His love is too big, His mercy too great.
Let’s also commit to bringing this reality into Lent with us. Let’s be the one to reach out, to love, and to allow our very selves to be an instrument of healing, no matter the cost.
Dear Jesus, help me to see others—and to see myself—as You see us.
Call to Action
If you haven’t already, start praying for guidance on what Lenten practices to observe this year. Where do you see someone in need of healing? How can you help? For what can you commit to pray?
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