What is the difference between “willingness” and “desire?”
It would seem to be quite a bit.
And while most people hear the Word of God proclaimed in today’s Gospel and focus on a miraculous healing, Jesus’s action in contrast to the First Reading, and the continuation of what we heard last week with Jesus getting a ton of attention right from the start of his ministry; I think that we too often overlook a significant detail in today’s Gospel…
Jesus’s First words to the Leper!
Jesus tells the man: “I do will it!” (not — “I will do it”).
Jesus is not simply acquiescing to a request, but instead reflects his desire to heal the man.
Other parts of scripture, such as in the Gospel of John and in Paul’s Letters, we see the Greek word: Thelo is used to mean: “I desire” or “I wish” or “I want.”
This Gospel according to Mark begins with the proclamation that what we are about to hear/read is the “Gospel of Jesus the Anointed, the Son of God” and what the author of John tells us at the beginning of that version is that the Son reveals, ex-presses, shows us the Father.
If we want to know what God is like, we read in John’s prologue, look at the Son!
God wills, desires, wants to touch our lives, to be in relationship with us, to heal us of our brokenness. BUT, God doesn’t play by our rules. God doesn’t abide by the systems we put in place to “protect the sacred” to “maintain ritual purity.”
So much does God not play by those rules that God entered the world as one like us, in the messiness of life.
God refuses to be bounded by our prejudices, our rules, our fastidious concerns about protocol and boundaries and purity. How do we know this? Because the Son has revealed the Father and the Son did not play by our rules.
What, then, is the difference between us and the leper?
The leper was outside of the rules, he was banished to live – as Moses prescribed in the first reading – “outside the walls and apart from the people.”
The leper could approach God and receive the healing of Jesus because he didn’t have the: Pride, Ego, Self-Interest, Apathy, or any of the other things that prevent us from receiving God’s healing.
The leper knew he was in need of healing, but we like to pretend that we are not.
The leper experienced the discrimination and forced departure from his community, when we are so often the ones doing the pushing away.
Remember that those who pushed the leper away and cut him off from community were simply playing by the rules, it was understandable and righteous.
Yet, Jesus reveals that God is the one who sides with that person at the margins, and God does so with the strongest desire.
What does this mean for us?
To begin with, as Friars Minor – lesser ones – we are supposed to identify with the leper on the margins (at least that is what our name demands).
But, our way of life calls us to identify with Jesus in this Gospel,
to follow in the Lord’s footprints as Francis sought to do,
to serve as God’s instruments of healing in our world,
to invite the outcast and marginalized back into society,
to find the voiceless, and listen!
There are times when people are forced to “dwell apart, making their abodes outside the camp” and presumably, like in the reading from Leviticus, it is done with the best of intention.
Who are these people today?
Are they those in abject poverty?
Are they those who speak another language or come from a foreign land?
Are they those whose sexual orientation is not the same as mine?
Are they those who practice another faith, or practice no faith at all?
Are they the Republicans or Democrats or members of a political party other than mine?
Are they the young person who has little hope of a future?
Are they the old person who is forgotten, overlooked or whose future has become a past?
Are they somebody I cannot even imagine precisely because they are pushed so far away?
Although most people go about their daily lives unbothered by those “outside the walls” and “who dwell apart,” God has revealed to us what is expected of us –
To heal the wounded,
to restore relationships,
to bring people back together and part of the human family.
and even more so as Franciscans,
it is presumed that this is something we are willing to do…
BUT, following the example of Jesus,
as we strive to be “Christ” for others,
can we move from just willingness to echoing Jesus, saying: “I do will it!”
and help reveal the true and gratuitous desire of God?