Jesus Is Not as Stingy...
#JesusIsNotasStingyasYouMayThink is the podcast for February 11, 2018 . Suicide is at a crisis in the United States and results, at least in part, for intense feelings of isolation, rejection, and loneliness. A leper approaches Jesus. This is not as innocent as it may seem. Suicide is important to learn about and do something about. Listen here and find out more: Download it into your phone. #Mark1#GospelofMark #6Ordinary #Sick #Unclean #Suicide #Loneliness #Isolation #DeathtotheCommunity #800-273-8255
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For The Church of Saint Raphael the Archangel, Munster, IN and My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 2/11/2018 The 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Mark 1:40-45.
There will be 1,000 suicides in [my home State of Indiana] this year. Every year, we average almost 1,000 suicides. Of those who lose hope, nearly 80% of them are males. If you are a male between the ages of 15-34 in Indiana, suicide will be your second leading cause of death, right behind poisoning. In the Indianapolis Star had an article entitled “Why It’s Tough to Be a Youth in Indiana” (Indy Star, 2/7/2017). Depression, failure and hopelessness are three of the top six reasons that people commit suicide. (Psychology Today, 4/10/2010). According to the report by the Indiana Department of Health, 95% of the people who contemplated or attempted suicide showed signs they were in trouble.
Of the signs of suicide, feeling isolated, feeling trapped, feeling hopeless and having no purpose are three. When someone talks about these things, then you should take some action. At the end of this podcast, I will give you a number to call in the United States. I urge you to look up resources to help persons with suicidal tendencies [where you live].
Why would I be talking about suicide today when the passage from the Gospel of Mark is about healing? I am talking about suicide because I want you to get an idea of the plight of the leper who approaches Jesus. When I get done, you will know that to say that the leper “approached” Jesus is an amazing thing and it is mind bending to think of it.
Lepers, according to Leviticus, were to separate themselves from the community. Leprosy was and is very contagious. Today we call it “Hansen’s Disease.” So, back in the time of the Hebrew peoples, it was important to protect the community from disease, but the instructions for the leper were harsh, if I may say so.
The leper was to tear their clothes. That means they were to be considered dead to the community. Tearing clothing meant there had been a death. To tear your clothing at someone was to say to them that they were dead to you. Ouch. So, when someone had leprosy, they were to tear their clothes and declare that they were dead to the community.
Lepers were to keep their hair disheveled, cover their upper lip, and cry out over and over, as a warning to others, “Unclean! Unclean!” This way, they could warn people to get away from them. The leper was to live alone and live outside the camp of the people.
Talk about isolation! Hopelessness! Lack of purpose! It is the person who has experienced this kind of isolation that approaches Jesus begging, “If you desire, you can make me clean!”
Imagine the response of the people in the community to this request. “Run for the hills!” or at least as fast as you can away from the one who is yelling, “Unclean! Unclean!” To touch someone who is unclean is to become unclean and have to do all the things that the leper had to do. It would not be in a person’s self-interest to be near a person who was unclean.
So, this is the situation that the leper faces: separation and isolation. I am only speculating, but it would seem to me that to be a leper would be a painful, isolating experience where a person would feel despair deep enough to want to die. Finding a person who would help you would be something rare, indeed.
Somehow, someway, the leper heard that Jesus was in town and he was healing. So, under all of the aforementioned conditions, he leaves his isolation, comes into town, and approaches Jesus.
Jesus, shows us what kind of person he is when the Leper says, “If you choose, you can make me clean.” It is a statement of surety, not doubt. It is to this statement of trust and faith that Jesus turns, has pity on him and says, “I do choose.” He has pity, not disgust, not disdain, not fear, not shock, not concern for his own self-interest. He has pity for the one for whom there is no pity.
What is it that you or anyone you know could do that deserves no pity? Jesus has pity on them. For those who feel like suicide is an option because they want to escape the separation, the isolation, the feelings of hopelessness, and lack of purpose, Jesus has pity. To have pity is to have compassion. To have compassion is to have a sense of oneness of personhood with the other. This is the Lord we serve. This is the type of communities [we ought to be forming to worship Jesus the Christ!] [we ought to be here at St. Raphael’s]!
In my larger Church, we have a priest who has decided to minister to sexual offenders. He has created a community that takes safeguards to have a place where they can meet, not be a danger to the community, and then he offers them pity, compassion, and a chance to repent of their sins. Our bishop speaks of him often and speaks of him with admiration and pride. We are proud that he loves the ones for whom we cannot have pity, the lepers of our modern age. I admire that priest brother of mine.
That is a very extreme example, but think of this. The Lord has pity for the sex offenders. What makes you think that he does not have pity for you? Are you one who lies habitually? The Lord has compassion on your in your foolishness. Are you one who has committed adultery? The Lord has compassion on you. Are you one who has not remained chaste in singleness? The Lord has compassion on you. Have you committed fraud, took money out of the till at work? The Lord has compassion on you.
Of course, the purpose of that compassion, that pity, of Jesus is to heal the world. We are in a sad state of affairs and he comes to renew us. So, he, as a matter of course, heals the leper. When he does, he unleashes one very happy man! He is man who can now walk freely through the town. He can now be considered alive. He no longer has to yell, “Unclean! Unclean!” to everyone. He no longer has to live separately from all of his known humanity. Can you imagine the relief?
It is to this man that Jesus says, “Do not tell anyone.” How is that possible? In this case is was not possible. The man told everyone. When he did, it was Jesus who ended up outside the town, isolated, unable to be with the community because of their self-interest. What the leper got? Everyone wanted some of that. In fact, that is how we ought to look at faith and inviting someone to our church.
If our communities are following Jesus, people will want some of that [this]. If we have compassion on the world like Jesus, people will want some of that [this]. If we sought out those who were without hope, without purpose, without community, people will want some of that [this]. We are not forming communities of faith around Jesus Christ to be served, but to serve. We come. We trust he will heal us. We are healed. We rejoice. We tell others. Rinse. Repeat.
There is no one who is as worthless as a leper who wasn’t worthless to the Lord. That is a message we can take to the world. Amen.
Please look for the following signs of depression in those around you:
Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself;
Looking for a way to kill oneself;
Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose;
Talking about feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain;
Talking about being a burden to others;
Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs;
Acting anxious, agitated, or reckless;
Sleeping too little or too much;
Withdrawing or feeling isolated;
Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge; and
Displaying extreme mood swings.
If you see any of these signs or you feel any of these signs, call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
This audio is under the copyright of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated and may not be used, reduplicated, or distributed for commercial use without the express written consent of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated. My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated, 2018.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian