Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (February 11, 2018)

“They shall declare themselves unclean. They shall dwell apart, making their abode outside the camp.”

“Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, “Be cured.”

St. Francis de Sales wrote in his Introduction to the Devout Life: “There is scarcely anyone without some imperfections.” (Part 3, Chapter 22)

We have a pretty good handle on the imperfections, vices, idiosyncrasies and even the sins of those with whom we work, we play, we neighbor and we live each day.

Most days we overlook them. Some days we put up with them. Other days, we might even make excuses for them. Occasionally, we dwell on – maybe even magnify – them.

Sometimes it is necessary to draw attention to things in other people that blemish their potential for happiness, health, and holiness. Sometimes we need to take the risk to name the sins, the faults and the wounds in others that prevent them from being more of who God calls them to be. Sometimes we need to reflect back to others those social, spiritual, psychological or relational sores that rob them of their full citizenship as sons and daughters of the living, loving and saving God.

The Scriptures contrast two very different methods for doing this. One approach draws attention to others’ sins in order to isolate them, ostracize them or distance them from the community. The other approach – Jesus’ approach – is to draw them even more closely into the life of the community, to create a space in which the “unclean” can experience healing, strength, and a new lease on life.

As yourself the question: When you do draw attention to the imperfections, the warts, the blemishes of others, why do you do it? To distance yourself from them? To embarrass them? To humiliate them? Or, are you reaching out, reaching in to the heart of others? Is your goal to create a space of truth in which they can experience healing, forgiveness, reconciliation and strength? Do you intend it as an opportunity for a new beginning?

A footnote worth considering: before ever calling attention to the imperfections, the sins or the blemishes of others, we must take that most important of first steps.

Be clear and unambiguous about our own sin and weakness. Be clear and unambiguous about our own need for healing and forgiveness. Be clear about our own need for friends who will not only sometimes tell us what we want to hear about ourselves, but who will consistently have the courage to tell us what we need to hear about ourselves.