It is hard to believe that Lent begins next week on Wednesday, February 14 also Valentine’s Day. Please bring back your blessed palms so that we can burn them to create ashes for Ash Wednesday, please place them in the basket near the entrance to the church. On Ash Wednesday the gospel passage invites us to reconsider how we fast, give alms and pray. These actions purify the mind and heart, opening us to receive the Word proclaimed in a new way, to receive the gift of Eucharist in a new way.
But first, we will make our way through the next couple of days taking care of so many seemingly important details, buying groceries, running errands, sorting through papers, paying bills, attending meetings and so on. In between we will attend to family members, make sure the children or grandchildren get to school on time, worship and pray, and live our lives. In some respects our lives lived in this valley are very different than the vast majority of people in the world. We live with our neighbors in peace, we have law and order, children receive an education and we generally get along with our neighbors.
In contrast the Book of Leviticus tells us that some people who live with skin conditions, serious skin lesions or outbreaks; they are called lepers who cannot mix with the general population. They can perform purification rites, and if the skin disease disappears can rejoin their family and be part of their village after verifications from the Levitical priests. If the leprosy does not disappear, they must segregate themselves from their family and villages.
When a leper approaches Jesus, he responds to the man with words of healing, and the man experiences a rebirth, his healing brings him back from the death of isolation to the new life of integration. So many people are desperate to be part of the community, to be part of the faith community, but do we ever give hints that some people are not welcome? Do we give looks to the parent of a restless child that implies, not here in my church. Do we ever encounter someone who needs to take a shower because they live on the street? Probably not here at Saint Anthony church but you will find them in downtown San Jose at churches like Saint Joseph Cathedral or Our Lady of LaVang on East Santa Clara Street.
However, it is here in church where we are all equal before God regardless of who we are or what positions we hold. The Lord calls us to offer hospitality to each person we meet, a measure of hospitality that we all need and want. Through this same hospitality we are made whole.
Blessings, Father Larry Hendel