That reading from Leviticus
has two verses from the beginning of the
then skips 42 verses,
and ends with three verses from the middle
of the chapter.
The five verses we heard today focus on leprosy,
out some very important background
in the 42 in
The word we translate
as leprosy is the Hebrew word tzaraath,
which can refer, in addition to scaly
or blotchy skin or hair,
to stains on cloth or leather,
or even fungi on
the stones of people’s houses.
Sometimes it does refer to a skin
but in every case it’s a spiritual illness
that shows up as a
The blotch or fungus or mold or scab
is understood as
for failure to feel the needs and share the hurt of
in short, a failure to be compassionate,
which breaks the biblical
and makes them ritually impure.
People afflicted with tzaraath
required to wear torn clothes,
stop grooming their hair,
cover the lower
part of their face,
cry out unclean—that is, ritually impure—
away from other people.
The isolation was mainly due to concerns
risk of moral corruption to other people,
not about a contagious
So what’s going on here in Mark’s gospel?
A man gets a skin
blotch or a scab
because he broke a religious law,
and he comes to Jesus
and is healed.
Parishes around our
have penance services with private confessions each Lent.
Associates I’ve talked with
tell me that they sit in the back pew during
and are invariably approached by a parishioner
question about going to confession—
what to do, what would happen
they told the priest what they did or didn’t do,
what to say if they didn’t
really have anything to confess.
Everything from “I missed Mass when I was
to “I went to communion even though I’m divorced”
to “I’m not really
sorry for what I did.”
They talk to the parishioners about what the church’s
rule really is,
or tell them how to make a “confession of devotion”
encourage them to go to the priest for the
When I hear Mark’s
story about Jesus and the leper,
I think of those people,
into the back of the church,
hunched over in the pew
whispering their fear
of having violated a law
that would keep them from communion.
Then a listening ear
and a word of
lets them know that God loves them,
over and above everything
so they do not need to fear—
God made them,
and God pronounced
That’s the Good News,
so go to the priest and tell your
That scene will be repeated in
parishes throughout the world
again this Lent,
with a happy ending for
when they find a priest with a listening ear and a loving
It won’t be a happy ending for some, though,
who will tell their
and find themselves condemned for who they are,
like folks in a
committed same-sex relationship;
or chastised for a wise and life-giving
like divorcing an abusive spouse;
or denounced for acting on
what they believe is right,
like taking birth control
Mark tells us that the leper
was immediately made clean—
restored to wholeness
from whatever spiritual
affliction had caused the tzaraath. Jesus
reaches out in compassion,
the man is healed.
scientists are telling us that kindness heals.
When health care workers treat
patients with kindness,
their wounds heal faster;
they suffer less
their anxiety and their blood pressure go down;
they get out of the
hospital more quickly.
People who have strong social ties—
spend time with family or friends or neighbors,
people who go bowling or play
or work the Blockwatch or volunteer to tutor—
those folks live
longer and recover from illness faster
than those who are socially
This weekend I signed us
for the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions’
Preach-In on Global Warming.
I promised to preach on care for creation.
you’re thinking that I haven’t mentioned our Tree Toledo project.
said a word about reduce-reuse-recycle.
I haven’t suggested that you should
have ridden your bike to Mass
through this bitter cold and snow.
What I have done, though, is talk about
caring for the human part
of God’s creation—us.
all of us the people of God,
and many among us are suffering.
don’t have a choice
about whether they eat organic grass-fed beef or pink
The homeless don’t have a choice
about turning down the thermostat
or planting a tree.
The jobless don’t have a choice
about donating to
The alone and lonely don’t have a choice
about getting healthy
We have choices,
We can reach out
to people who are hungry, homeless, jobless, or
We can help feed them,
help them have homes and jobs,
Hungry people can’t hear sermons;
they aren’t going to care
the impact of global warming on their grandchildren
if they don’t know where
their kids’ next meal is coming
Yes, we’ll plant lots of
trees in the next five years.
We’ll examine and re-examine our
to see how we can reduce our carbon footprint.
legislation, and we’ll petition for action.
We’ll do our best to mitigate
so future generations will survive and
In Jesus’ time global
warming was not an urgent issue;
it wasn’t an issue at all.
oppression were the problem.
They still are the problem,
and we still are
called to follow his Way
in the basic care for creation—
spirits and minds and bodies
of the poorest among us.
Our Tree Toledo
project cares for the future of all God’s creation.
The same values that
motivate us to plant trees for the future
motivate us to act now with
kindness and compassion,
loving our family and friends and
following the Way of our brother Jesus.
at 3535 Executive Parkway (Unity of Toledo)
at 4:30 p.m.
Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
Bev Bingle, Pastor