Saturday, March 4, 2017
Don’t hide your face from God this lent
St. Luke 5:12-16
The passage of Jesus healing the man with leprosy kicks off a multitude of miracles committed by Jesus. But it will be revealing for us to check the first part of St. Luke 5 and then read verses 12 to 16 to understand an interesting contrast which will help us observe lent in a better way. This contrast between good and bad and accepted and unaccepted makes us question certain usages.
Jesus speaks to a crowd and he has his future disciples with him. They fish but are unsuccessful in their attempt. Jesus advises them to let down the nets. They get a big catch of fish. Simon is overwhelmed with shame that he kneels and tells Jesus to move away as Simon Peter considers himself a sinner. Jesus though still offers him hope. Our lent many a time is like Simon catching fish. We are confident that our lent is making us pure and strong whereas without Jesus there is no lent! Simon then realizes his inadequacy and hides his face from Jesus by kneeling down. Our lent is a hiding from God as we kneel and take part in the lent but never offers ourselves to God to be moulded according to God’s plan.
The leper on the other hand is our model for lent. He is the outcast. Like all lepers he would have faced the humiliation of informing people that he, a leper was coming and that they should not defile themselves because of him. It blinded the society so much that the word leper because synonymous with sinner. This is the man who talks to Jesus. But unlike Simon, he feels no shame of inadequacy. He has nothing to lose because he has not gained anything. The leper then kneels like Simon but unlike him, tells Jesus “If you wish (choose), make me clean.” In the process of touching and healing the leper, Jesus is healing us and our shame which we try to hide by observing lent.
But unlike Simon who was the accomplished fisher man, we can benefit well if we look at the leper, who was in turn the man looked down upon. While Simon gives up and asks Jesus to leave, the leper finds strength in his condition and invites God into his heart and life. The lent of Simon is the lent we unwittingly observe. We are lenting but we are pushing God away. The lent of the leper is what we should observe. It sounds and looks disgusting, but it is the lent to follow because we are asking God “Lord if you wish (choose), make me clean.”
What a beautiful lent this can be when we follow the foot steps of the leper, even though we are not sure how it is. The leper is confident and hopeful. On the other hand steps taken by the accepted may not take us to God because God is being asked to leave by the dominant. Let this be a lent when we leave society’s accusations and labels with them and kneel before God and say “If you wish, make me clean.” We can qualify that and say “If you wish make me a clean father/mother, if you wish Lord make me a clean son/daughter, if you wish Lord make me a clean sibling, if you wish Lord make me a clean person, if you wish Lord make me a clean friend and so on. Lent is not a time to live on our assurance and skill rather it is a time to live on the assurance of God.
A young child was told by her parents to observe lent. She asked questions about lent and tried to understand what it was. Her parents finally told her that lent meant sacrificing something we like so much. After some thought she said “I am going to have a study lent. I love studying, so I will stop doing that this Lenten season!” There is much wisdom in what the girl said because she noticed what the elders were doing. Let us stop hiding from God this lent, telling God that we are sinners and asking God to leave. Instead, let us leave that to Christ Jesus. Let him decide who we are and what we mean to him. In the course of this lent rejoice if others reject you because that means you will be accepted by God. Amen.