A Pastoral Letter - 13 Oct. 2019
Touching the untouchable
by Revd. David GrobbelaarMy dear people of St. Cuthbert’s
In today’s Gospel (Lk. 17: 11- 19) 10 lepers stand at a distance from Jesus and cry out for pity because of their dreaded and contagious disease which separated them from family and worship.
The rest of the story we know. Jesus said go forth for cleansing by the religious authorities of the day. All 10 were healed but only one retuned to Jesus to give him thanks where Jesus responds with “your faith has made you well.”
In Matthew 8: A leper came to Jesus, and said "If you will, you can make me clean “Notice his exact words. "If you choose to you can make me clean; if you want to, Jesus…” He was taking a risk and putting his whole life into the hands of this young teacher.
Being a leper, this man was taking a chance that Jesus might walk away - as the scribes and Pharisees would have done, or have stones thrown at him, or be taunted, like he and many others were accustomed to. But he obviously felt that Jesus was different, that he just might be the one who could change his whole life.
And we know the rest of the story: that Jesus is moved with pity; that he stretched out his hand and
touched him and said, "I do choose – I will – be made clean.”
Jesus acted because he knew just how lonely, how miserable, how forsaken – labeled and discarded this man felt. Jesus did something because no one else would – or could. The rest of society would have shunned him.
There are so many things for us here. Leprosy as a metaphor for our lives; if only people knew the stuff that went on deep inside us, the stuff we try and hide, they wouldn’t touch us with a barge-pole! Or the way as a society we vilify and label certain people whose faces just don’t fit; just like polite society did in Jesus’ day with their own riff-raff; those dreaded tax collectors and prostitutes –those woman and children who had little status – or those with incurable and disfiguring diseases and disabilities who were blamed for the predicament they were in. We have our own contemporary version of this don’t we?
As the church, today, we are Jesus’ hands in this world to reach out We, who claim to act in his name are the hands of compassion, of pity, of love in a world that’s crying for someone to care. As we see people hurting, or living with burdens they find so heavy; as we see people afflicted with disease, we are compelled - as Jesus was - to reach out with all of our strength to bring some measure of peace and comfort into the lives of the people around us. At least that’s what we’re called to do and be.
So it’s not difficult to read this gospel passage and see that it applies to our lives.
- The faith of a leper – an outcast who was willing to take the risk and surrender his life to Jesus.
- Jesus response of love and compassion - touching the untouchable.
- That we are to be like Jesus, responsive to the needs of others as ‘kingdom people’, bringing the good news and power of Jesus healing love to our world.
The leper came to Jesus, knelt down, and begged him for help. “If you want to”, he said, you can
make me clean.” Jesus was filled with pity, and reached out and touched him. “I do want to, he answered.”Be clean!” Mk 1: 40 – 41 TEV.
May our response to Jesus as he touches our lives be: “Change my heart O God; may I be like you; mold me and make me; this is what I pray.”
Date Added: 2019-10-10