Posted January 04, 2016 in The Pope's Corner:
Gospel of the Marginalized

by Pope Francis.

Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean. Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out his hand, touched him, and said: "I do choose. Be made clean!" (Mk 1:40-41).

The compassion of Jesus! That compassion which made him draw near to every person in pain! Jesus does not hold back.

[After this] Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed in the country. Even so, people from all around would come to him (Mk 1:45).

This means that Jesus not only healed the leper but also took upon himself the marginalization enjoined by the law of Moses (cf. Lev 13:1-2, 45-46).

Jesus was unafraid to risk sharing in the suffering of others; he paid the price of it in full (cf. Is 53:4)… .

Moses, in his legislation regarding lepers, said that they are to be kept alone and apart from the community for the duration of their illness. He declared them "unclean" (cf. Lev 13:1-2, 45-46).

Imagine how much suffering and shame lepers must have felt—physically, socially, psychologically and spiritually! They were not only victims of disease, but they felt guilty about it, punished for their sins! Theirs was a living death… .

In addition, lepers inspired fear, contempt and loathing, and so they were abandoned by their families, shunned by other persons, cast out by society… .

Indeed, they were forced to live apart from the healthy… . So much so that if a healthy person approached a leper, he was punished severely, and often treated as a leper himself.

The purpose for this rule was "to safeguard the healthy," "to protect the righteous," and, in order to guard them from any risk, to eliminate "the peril" by treating the diseased person harshly.

As the high priest Caiaphas decreed: It is better to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed (Jn 11:50).

Jesus revolutionized and upset that fearful, narrow and prejudiced mentality. He did not abolish the law of Moses, but rather brought it to fulfillment (cf. Mt 5:17).

Jesus, the new Moses, wanted to heal the leper. He wanted to touch him and restore him to the community… .

He responded immediately to the leper’s plea, without waiting to study the situation and all its possible consequences! For Jesus, what matters above all is reaching out to save those far off, healing the wounds of the sick, restoring everyone to God’s family.

This is scandalous to some people! [But]Jesus is not afraid of this kind of scandal… .

There are two ways of thinking and of having faith: we can fear to lose the saved and we can want to save the lost… .

The thinking of the doctors of the law, which would remove the danger by casting out the diseased person, and the thinking of God, who in his mercy embraces and accepts by reinstating him and turning evil into good, condemnation into salvation and exclusion into proclamation… .

The Church’s way, from the time of the Council of Jerusalem, has always, always been the way of Jesus, the way of mercy and reinstatement.

This does not mean underestimating the dangers of letting wolves into the fold, but welcoming the repentant prodigal son; healing the wounds of sin with courage and determination; rolling up our sleeves and not standing by and watching passively the suffering of the world.

The way of the Church is not to condemn anyone for eternity; [but] to pour out the balm of God’s mercy on all those who ask for it with a sincere heart.

The way of the Church is to … adopt fully God’s own approach, to follow the Master who said: Those who are well have no need of the physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call, not the righteous but sinners to repentance (Lk 5:31-32)… .

True charity is always unmerited, unconditional and gratuitous. (cf. 1 Cor 13). And charity is creative in finding the right words to speak to all those considered incurable and hence untouchable.

Contact is the true language of communication, the same endearing language which brought healing to the leper. How many healings can we perform if only we learn this language! …

Let us implore the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, who herself experienced marginalization as a result of slander (cf. Jn 8:41) and exile (cf. Mt 2:13-23)… . May she, our Mother, teach us to be unafraid of tenderly welcoming the outcast; to be unafraid of tenderness and compassion… .

Dear brothers [the new cardinals], as we look to Jesus and our Mother Mary, I urge you to serve Jesus crucified in every person who is marginalized, for whatever reason; to see the Lord in every excluded person, … even in those who have lost their faith or turned away from the practice of their faith… .

We will not find the Lord unless we truly accept the marginalized… . And truly the Gospel of the marginalized is where our credibility is found and revealed.

—Excerpted from a Sunday homily on February 15, 2015, the day after Pope Francis has bestowed the Red Hat on 20 new cardinals from around the world. They all attended this Mass.


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