Speak Lord: My refuge, my joy

Healing and Incorporation, Liverpool The Responsorial Psalm on Sunday, the 6th in Ordinary Time, has the congregation thank for the Lord for care and safety, for healing and welcome back into God’s ‘family’.

On Sunday, the psalm is prayed, of course, immediately after we have heard the precepts of Leviticus about segregation and exclusion, which  – at least to modern ears – are rather harrowing.

 

You are my refuge, O Lord; you fill me with the joy of salvation.

Happy the man whose offence is forgiven,
whose sin is remitted.
O happy the man to whom the Lord
imputes no guilt,
in whose spirit is no guile.

But now I have acknowledged my sins;
my guilt I did not hide.
I said: ‘I will confess
my offence to the Lord.’
And you, Lord, have forgivenThe
the guilt of my sin.

Rejoice, rejoice in the Lord,
exult, you just!
O come, ring out your joy,
all you upright of heart.

You are my refuge, O Lord; you fill me with the joy of salvation.

Psalm 31:1-2,5,11

Few of us will have experienced, or imposed, the exclusion envisaged in Leviticus. But guilt and shame is something we are all very familiar with. And that tends to form its own  barriers, and have us hide from ourselves and others.

The psalmist knows the re-integration which is brought about by the love and mercy of God. And does not keep it to himself!

  • What keeps you from feeling whole and wholesome? Try to bring your needs to the Lord in prayer.
  • Who do you know who seems to live ‘in exile’? How might you reach out to them? Simple prayer to God for them can have its good effects!

Photograph of the Holy Oils used in celebrations of Baptism, Confirmation and Ordination, and the Anointing of the Sick and their place of reservation at Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral. (c) 2006, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Of healing and cleansing…

Hazard

The first reading on Sunday, the 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time, places the experience of sickness in the context of religion and the community.

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.’

Leviticus 13:1-2,44-46

Sadly, the response of religion, here, is to exclude the sick person from the community.

Self-exclusion for the sake of others may well be a generous and self-sacrificing act, but if we impose exclusion on others for our (presumed) well-being it can be a deadly and selfish thing – not working for the good of society, but leading to its disintegration.

In the UK today the sick, the elderly and the disabled are excluded, so often. We may not make them cry out ‘Unclean, unclean’, but their place in society is often unsecure and so the security and health of our society made less secure.

The present debates about the NHS and social care, about euthanasia and the like reveal so much about our priorities and values. And society presently seems rather shabby and careless.

The saying that it takes a village to raise a child, has something to teach us about people’s experience at other stages in life too, when they cannot cope alone.  When they cannot cope? Or when we cannot cope… ?

  • For who do you show care?
  • Who shows care for you?

Bring your thoughts and feelings to God in prayer.