Including the Excluded

(The Nationalist, January 2006)


There is story in the Gospel about a leper coming to Jesus on his knees and pleading with him, saying, ‘If you want to, you can cure me’. It was a pitiful statement, suggesting despair. The leper had reason to: in the tradition of the time, leprosy was seen as a punishment by God for sin, and led to social and religious rejection. Maybe the man had lost hope and didn’t expect much. But he was desperate, so he came on his knees; desperate people are not worried about losing their decorum. Or it could be that he simply didn’t have feet he could walk with; leprosy destroys toes and you can’t walk without them.

The first thing Jesus did was to look at the man; he didn’t turn away in disgust. Then he listened to him; he didn’t lecture him. He felt sorry for him; he didn’t feel scorn for him. Then he touched him; he did not keep him at arm’s length, or out of smelling range; he touched the untouchable. Jesus seemed stung by the man’s ‘If you want to’, and replied, ‘Of course I want to!’ And he healed him. Jesus looked, listened, felt sorry, touched and healed. That was how he treated the leper, the outcast.

An outcast is anyone I close myself off against, anyone I give a cold shoulder to, anyone the mention of whose name gives me a jolt. Those are my outcasts, my lepers. Isn’t there a lesson there for us towards anyone who is an outcast to us?


For those in a hurry: ‘To understand everything is to forgive everything’. (Madame de Staël)