Without necessarily having seen a person with this disease up close, popular imagery or photos are enough to create reluctance and even a feeling of repulsion. The fear of contagion is established and never would we spontaneously think of the desire to approach a leper.
Today the Scriptures offer us two distinct faces: the Syrian general Naaman in the 2nd book of Kings and the Samaritan in the Gospel of Luke.
They are at the ends of the social scale.
One, above, has proven his valor and strength at the head of conquering armies.
The other, below, is completely unknown and would disappear into the bowels of history if it weren’t for this Gospel passage specific to Saint Luke.
Powerful or humble, here they are marked in their flesh by this illness which spares nothing, not even the face by which the state of our soul and our heart is so often manifested.
Lepers are deeply affected by the effects of the disease in their body but even more by the rejection that this produces in their environment and those around them. They are bruised and pushed aside. Their request for healing amounts to being freed from the disease and above all to being able to be reintegrated into the community.
Brothers and sisters,
Do we feel the same fear towards the “lepers” of our society?
You know the ones we’re afraid to approach.
Not only the sick but also those whom we do not accept within our families and our communities, the pariahs, whom we reject by social conformity, by economic selfishness, by political ideology, by lack of ethics when we consider that elderly, sick or disabled people should no longer live.
Perhaps abrupt and painful truth, our gaze pushes us to see the leprosy of others…
but we are also lepers, ravaged from within by this disease of the soul which distances us from God.
Yes we have a beautiful face, a well maintained body, a keen intelligence
But what about our prayer and our hope? of our very faith?
The two lepers in Scripture today bear a fine testimony to this.
Naaman traveled to Israel, first to the king then to the prophet before diving 7 times into the Jordan. He thought answered prayer deserved retribution in gold and silver, but he was rebuffed by Elisha and brought back to a just consideration of the free gift of healing his body. His soul was converted to it.
And “when a group of ten lepers came to him, Jesus did not heal them immediately, but only on the road to the Temple. Because, according to the Jesuit Joseph Moingt, it is in the silence of faith and obedience that the mystery of God is revealed and accomplished”.
Only the Samaritan was able to show his gratitude.
Here are two movements of the soul, specific to the believer, whoever he is:
See the disease that affects him in order to ask to be cured of it
Knowing how to say thank you and recognize what God is accomplishing in him.
In this harmonious place, shaped over the centuries, while meditating on these biblical texts, I saw a sign in an originality specific to this Saint-Séverin church.
In the ambulatory, and the direct prospect of the choir, is a chapel with stained glass windows and a twisted column, in the shape of a palm tree which you can see.
When night falls and if no light comes to break the darkness, the beautiful stained glass windows are black, without luminosity or transparency. The sinuosity of the pillar gives it a tortuous appearance. Their beauty is hidden!
On the other hand, as soon as a ray of sunshine comes through the windows which evoke the 7 sacraments, the variety of colors restores warmth and great magnificence to this place of prayer inhabited by God.
The same is true for us and our experiences of faith. We have a personal, human and spiritual beauty, sometimes obscured by our leprosy and illnesses. Our healing passes through the awareness of what affects us, through the hope we have in the Lord and through the faith that we express even in our prayer and our missionary commitment.
To reveal inner beauty, it is necessary to let the Lord radiate through us, through our heart and our whole being.
Like the stained glass windows or the harmonious shape of the pillar, strong or fragile, we will contribute to making the world more beautiful.
We are all lepers!
We can all be healed by Christ!
Let’s overcome our fears.
Let us never hesitate to express our gratitude to the Lord who illuminates our lives with his presence.