February 12, 2012 Gospel: Mark 1:40-45 Psalm 30
1st Reading: 2 Kings 5:1-14 2nd Reading: 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
How are you and how is the weather there in Capurnaum? We are all well and everyone from the family says hello. You have a new nephew and he’s a little butterball. Your brother has a new job and the family farm is flourishing.
It seems like forever since we’ve seen you and it is too bad that isn’t likely to change, now that your illness has progressed so much. How are you feeling, by the way? Have you made a lot of friends there in the leper colony? I suppose you start to build your own family with those around you. Although, I’m sure you miss us a lot, and we certainly miss you, I’m sure with time you will forget us and move on to your new life.
We’ve often wondered what it was you did, or we did, that brought this disease on you? Was there something we did or didn’t do? Did you forget your prayers or complain against God? Did you touch someone who was just coming down with leprosy? Some questions we may never know the answer to. One can spend hours and days going over it in one’s mind, trying to understand. What’s the use, though? We all know it is a disease which can never be cured, so we might as well accept it.
I have heard rumors, but I am sure they are too good to be true. There are rumors of a Messiah who can heal people of even the most grave diseases—cast out demons, heal people blind from birth, and take away addictions and madness. It seems like every few years these rumors erupt and it never turns out to have any truth to it. It probably isn’t even worth looking into. I suppose you don’t have anything to lose, though, and maybe someday one of these healers will turn out to be the real thing. Anyway, I heard his name is Jesus. He isn’t that special—just a regular guy from Nazareth. He’s wandering all around the countryside, drawing crowds and supposedly doing miracles. That’s probably an exaggeration—feeding 5000 people! Who knows?
I guess it isn’t impossible since we’ve all read in the Holy Scriptures about Naaman, a Gentile, healed by the prophet Elisha. It couldn’t really be as easy as washing in the Jordan river 7 times, could it? I’m sure you’ve tried that already.
Anyway, if you happen to get a chance to meet this guy, Jesus, you should. Who knows if he’d heal you, since you probably deserve what you’ve got, but it is worth a shot. Your mom would love to see you again, as would we all. We’ll try not to dwell on it, though.
It was good to hear from you. Please keep sending these letters. I look forward to them. Many people have stopped getting mail. Their families have given up on them. They are completely abandoned and alone. Say hello to everyone from me. I miss you all so much.
I often wonder, too, what I did to make God angry. I go over it in my mind a hundred times. I am not perfect by any means, but it doesn’t make any sense. I know people who have done a lot worse things than me who are perfectly healthy. I probably shouldn’t question God’s plan. But maybe my leprosy isn’t God’s plan. Maybe it is just a random accident of nature. Or maybe God will use it for God’s glory, somehow, or use me to help others. It is hard to say.
Here in the leper colony we read that Bible story about Naaman all the time. For some, it helps us not to lose hope. Others say it is just an ancient myth, that doesn’t mean anything for us. Those are some who have been here 20 or 30 years. Whether it is true or not, there is a lot going on in that story. I always like that it is an army general who has leprosy. There are some people here who used to be important, but leprosy puts you all on the same level. I love how it is a slave girl who knows the solution to his problem. The one you think is powerful is battling a serious illness and needs the help of a girl with no power at all. The general goes to the king since there is no way he’d go the lowly prophet but the king who is the most powerful man in the land has no power of leprosy. Then he is told to go wash in the Jordan River, but he thinks that isn’t good enough for him. It just shows you to expect the unexpected and that what we think of as powerful isn’t necessarily and what we think of as weak might not be.
So, I’m trying to be ready and open for anything—to look for healing in unexpected places from unexpected people. To be ready to be healed or not healed, bodily. To be open to another definition of healing—to be part of this community where I can hopefully make a difference. To remember that God created us all good so we’re never far from God’s care. I don’t know what is going to happen, but I am not willing to give up hope that something good can come out of this.
Give my love to the family,
You are stronger than I am. I certainly would have given up hope by now. Keep your spirits up and I’ll write you a longer letter when I have more time.
A guy in our camp met this Messiah you mentioned in a previous letter and he’s been healed! It is truly a miracle. He came dancing back to show us how he’s better. He was out begging and someone said that was Jesus who could heal people, even leprosy. He said he approached him cautiously. He didn’t want to contaminate the poor guy. And he tried to be really polite about it in case it wasn’t meant to be. But Jesus invited him right over and was compassionate and even touched his skin. We’re all holding our breath, thinking he could be thrown in our camp any day now just for touching my friend. Anyway Jesus chose to heal him. He wasn’t supposed to tell, but how could he not? Everyone wanted to know how it happened. He’s been asked to tell the story again and again. He was supposed to go the synagogue and show the priest, but he says he’s never darkening the door of the synagogue again after the way he’s been treated. I thought for sure, if I was healed, I’d never go back to the colony, but that’s what he’s done. He’s there trying to help all of us and to give us hope by sharing the story of a man who is going to change the world, who is going to change the systems that keep people down and who wants us all to help change those systems. I’m starting to think my life might not be a total waste—that maybe I have something to offer, even if I’m not ever healed. There are lots of people who need to know there is hope, even when you are sick and rejected. We’ll all be in that place someday, so how can we live with our shortcomings and still have hope and give hope to other people. I think it can be done.
Talk to you soon,
It turns out Jesus wasn’t the Messiah after all. He was arrested last week and crucified, so that’s the end of that.
I’m sure you wondered why he healed your friend and not you if he had the power to do it. We’ve all wondered it and had our suspicions that he wasn’t all that people said he was.
I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news. I hope this isn’t too much of a blow to you. I know you hoped to meet him and be healed, too. Still you are doing a lot of good there in the colony and for leper’s rights in the community. Keep up the good work.
We’ve been discussing Jesus’ death here at the colony. Because we’ve experienced strength in our weakness, we don’t see Jesus’ death as a blow at all. God can work through a situation of weakness and even death to bring life. Whether he was the Messiah or not our lives have been changed for the better and new life is coming out of a difficult situation. Even though we are suffering, we give thanks to God and persevere. I hope you won’t lose hope and faith. Just because I didn’t experience a healing of my leprosy I have a meaningful life and a lot to look forward to.
May you find meaning and purpose in your weakness, too, and experience God’s healing in the many forms it takes.
God bless you,