October 9, 2016
Imagine that one day you look down at your wrist,
and you notice a red spot.
You try to rub it away but it doesn’t disappear.
You ignore it.
But then the next day you wake up and you notice it again,
and maybe it’s a little bit larger and redder
and maybe there’s another spot on your other arm,
and maybe one on your leg too.
Now you feel your heart pounding a bit.
You don’t know what it is,
but you don’t want anyone else to see,
so you cover it up as best you can…
draping a shawl over your arms,
wearing a long skirt – covering your ankles.
You’re tired – but you aren’t sure if it’s because
you’re not sleeping or if you’re really sick.
You’re not very hungry and you’ve lost some weight –
but that’s not such a bad thing, you think.
But then one morning not long after as you wash your face
you see your reflection in the water
and there’s something right in the middle of your cheek –
another splotch of red.
Frantically you take out some skin cream
and rub it over the spot,
but it doesn’t mask the mark.
You try more skin cream and powder
and put more and more on your face,
but still, anyone looking at you can tell that something is there.
You ignore the comments as you carry on with life.
You do the household chores, go to work, care for the family…
always covered in makeup and wearing the long sleeves and the long skirts,
tired, sweating, and steadily losing weight.
One morning as you’re getting ready for the day,
your spouse sees you in front of the wash basin, without your makeup
and he gasps!
“What is that on your face?” he asks.
“Oh, it’s nothing, “ you say.
“Just a bug bite or a rash of some sort.”
But he draws close and then he sees the other spots –
the one on your wrist and your arm and your leg…
and some on your back you haven’t noticed.
And he says, “You have it. Go. Now.”
You can hide these spots no longer,
And you know he’s right – and you leave.
You head out to the edge of town where there are some others staying.
As you approach you hear voices.
“Stop!” they say.
“Stay away!” they say as they bang together metal pots and pans
warning you to step back.
But you keep walking.
As you get to the camp,
someone sees your face – and the large red blotch on your cheek-
that this time you didn’t even try to cover up,
and without speaking, he invites you in.
This is your life now.
You live in this leper camp on the outskirts of town with the others.
Some are disfigured by the disease;
Others just have some red splotches like you do.
Your job now is simple:
warn people of your presence;
tell them to stay away from you – don’t get close, don’t look,
and for God’s sake, don’t touch.
Days pass and years pass.
Sometimes your spouse or one of your children will drop off a basket of food –
And in the distance you can see them –
But in all this time you haven’t been able to touch them,
To hug them,
To talk to them – other than in shouts 50 feet away.
But then one day,
you see that preacher-teacher-healer named Jesus.
You wonder what brought him here.
This place isn’t on the way to Jerusalem;
It isn’t on the way to anywhere.
He went out of his way – to come here.
You and the others begin calling out to him.
“Jesus have mercy on us.”
“Jesus have mercy on us.”
And then Jesus speaks…
“Go and show yourselves to the priest,” he says.
And for the first time in years, you and the others leave the camp.
Your walk turns to a run as you realize that your skin is beginning to change.
The blotches are gone.
The wrist and the arm and the leg
and even the skin on your face is clear.
You begin to dare to think about home again..
about your husband, your children.
For a moment you look back – and you’re surprised to see
that someone has not left.
There is one who has stayed behind
and he’s kneeling at Jesus’ feet.
That Samaritan guy.
Surely God wouldn’t have healed him, too?
He wasn’t Jewish!
And you think about the prayer you and the others prayed:
“Jesus have mercy on us!”
When you said “us” you didn’t really mean all of us.
You really meant,
“Jesus have mercy on me and people like me.”
“Jesus watch over some of us.”
“Heal some of us.”
“Bring shelter to some of us.”
“Feed some of us.”
“Watch over some of us.”
“Love some of us.”
Jesus must have heard the prayer wrong.
He healed the outsider.
He cared for the enemy.
He had mercy on the refugee.
Jesus must have heard it wrong…