With thanks to FR. ROGER LANDRY
We are regularly contacted by organisations, and collections of organisations, to put our name to public letters in support of one thing or another. From time to time this is easy, such as with the Evangelical Alliance some months ago. More recently Crisis did the same on a point of law which I am confident will reach the necessary desks and ears. Others are from much smaller organisations who lack the clout to get a hearing on their own and so reach out to fellow workers to lend weight in the hope that accumulated voices have the desired impact. The challenge with all of them is the level to which we are being asked to align politically in the public sphere. I am sure that our supporters are from every political stripe and wherever possible I would not want to alienate any of them with an overt partisan political position. Thankfully though we are able to look to the testimony of the life and teachings of Jesus and the Apostles for our leads and no more so than in the arena of how we ought to best to manage the stranger, alien, and outcasts in our midst’s.
What are we to do with our modern day lepers and outcasts?
Paul, in his letter to the strife-bound collective in Corinth sums up all social, personal, community directives and ethics in one short sentence which is a summary of the Christian life – “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”1 Corinthians 11:1. Each of us is called to imitate Christ and to set an example. It is my belief that the most troubled of human beings intuitively knows who Jesus is, the issue is that they do not regularly encounter him when contact is made by those who come in his name. St. Paul is one in a line of saints whose actions were a living commentary on the modern expression, “What would Jesus do?” There are outcasts in our culture, those on the outside of our communities and social structures who are untouchable, unwanted, deemed unworthy, and unwelcome. So, who are the leper’s in our day? Who are the filthy Samaritans, the unclean ones, those not deserving of our societal benefit and safeguards? I propose a few:
- The bodily leper: those with HIV/AIDS, those deemed ugly misshapen and deformed that the world considers ugly or unattractive. The smelly and unkempt. Those whose illnesses are so long-lasting that few want to care for them;
- The psychological lepers: those with mental illness or mental disabilities, about whom others make jokes, but for whom they make no time;
- Moral lepers: paedophiles, drug addicts, prostitutes, murderers — those who have committed very public sins, and those who think that their sins cannot be forgiven or whom society may judge should ‘rot in hell’;
- Economic lepers: the homeless or the very poor, who are through their poverty are shut off from aspects of society and the things most of us take for granted;
- Racial/religious/cultural lepers: The list is infinite;
- The emotional lepers: those who, because of their own psyche or others’ actions, feel completely alone and abandoned.
Loving action done in Jesus’ name might be interpreted by onlookers as political or radical, but as Disciples it is simply our duty. These modern-day outcasts and lepers are among the ones Jesus wants us to reach out to and heal through our very human touch, to bring back from the margins into a true communion with the One who gives life. The source from which Living Waters flow.