From my sermon for 16 Feb 2014. The gospel reading is Mark 1.40-45
This encounter between Jesus the nameless man is full of emotion: Mark tells us right from the start that the man came to Jesus begging him, and knelt down before Jesus to put his request. The man then puts a searching request to Jesus, in which he clearly shows the faith he has in Jesus: If you choose to, says the man, you can make me clean.
Face-to-face with this show of faith and feeling, Jesus makes his response. I do choose, says Jesus, be clean! And going against all the accepted custom and common sense of the time, Jesus does something deeply wonderful: he touches the man. Jesus reaches out both literally and emotionally, moved, as Mark tells us, with pity, with compassion. And the man is healed.
Jesus offers us here a pattern for the healing work of God's Church and all who follow Jesus: the touching of those considered untouchable; the loving of those thought unlovable; the welcoming of those thought beyond invitation. This is the work of grace and beauty that Jesus set himself to, the song that he sang in his life on earth. You and I, if we hear the call of Jesus to journey with him, are called to this work, too.
In his poem 'Love', the priest and poet George Herbert portrays the invitation, the love, the welcome that Christ offers to you, to me and all who look to him for divine healing and acceptance. I would like to end with that poem, and to invite us to consider what it might mean for us to both receive and then offer that unconditional love.
Love (III) by George Herbert
Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back, Guilty of dust and sin. But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack From my first entrance in, Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning If I lacked anything. "A guest," I answered, "worthy to be here": Love said, "You shall be he." "I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear, I cannot look on thee." Love took my hand, and smiling did reply, "Who made the eyes but I?" "Truth, Lord; but I have marred them; let my shame Go where it doth deserve." "And know you not," says Love, "who bore the blame?" "My dear, then I will serve." "You must sit down," says Love, "and taste my meat." So I did sit and eat.