The first reading at Mass, last Sunday, the 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time, spoke of sickness.
The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘If a swelling or scab or shiny spot appears on a man’s skin, a case of leprosy of the skin is to be suspected. The man must be taken to Aaron, the priest, or to one of the priests who are his sons.
‘The man is leprous: he is unclean. The priest must declare him unclean; he is suffering from leprosy of the head. A man infected with leprosy must wear his clothing torn and his hair disordered; he must shield his upper lip and cry, “Unclean, unclean.” As long as the disease lasts he must be unclean; and therefore he must live apart: he must live outside the camp.’
In most cultures there is a close association made between sickness, and being unclean, and being ‘a sinner’. And the person infected or who is subject of sin is seen as an outcast, or an undesirable.
It is notable that sinners and the sick both found warm welcome with Jesus. And his compassion and care was accompanied with healing and reconciliation.
Today – Ash Wednesday – we soil ourselves with ashes reminding ourselves of our sin and mortality. But we do it also to remind ourselves of the Gospel and the hope and promise it contains.
No-one, ever, is beyond the love and healing of God. And that healing and that love are freely offered. Rejoice and make the most of Lent, that you may live again the new life of Easter.
Image of Wall hanging at Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral. Photograph (c) 2006, Allen Morris.