OUTSIDERS AND EXCLUDED

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time            

            There is no one who likes to be left out or excluded. We do not want to feel like outsiders, that we do not belong, and worse, we are rejected and ostracized. Maybe you have felt like that at one time or another. When I first arrived here in OLMMP, almost 3 years ago I did not know what to expect. I wondered how I might be accepted, how I could find my way around, make friends and feel as though I belonged. I am so blessed that it did not take a long time before I felt welcomed and included. OLMM has certainly made me feel that I belong, that this is my community.

            Let me go back to my original point: To be excluded is terrible. Many people live everyday as outsiders, perhaps not because they choose to or even want to but it just happens to them. Part of the malady that COVID-19 has brought into the world is the quarantine, isolation, seclusion, or separation that has been imposed on us – no matter how necessary. We are social beings; we are not wired to live a life of “social distancing” or physical distancing.

            Just imagine the terrible feeling of those who have contacted the virus and have been confined in the hospital ICUs, without family members to be with them and to care for them. Many have died in isolation – without seeing, touching, and being touched by their loved ones.

            To be excluded is to be a failure at life. Single men and women, widows and widowers go home to empty and lonely quarters. Even those who live with significant person in their lives but do not have meaningful relationships with them also feel lonely – perhaps due to “emotional distancing.”

            Feeling isolated from one another is one of the heaviest crosses to bear. That is why families are so important to every member especially these days when we are ‘forced’ to be in the same roof almost all the time. Sad to say, even though there is so much time to be together, there are family members who remain distant from one another – due to animosity, bitterness, unforgiveness. A lot of people are wounded by self-inflicted pain or self-imposed isolation and separation from the family.

            Today’s first reading and gospel reading speak to us about a terrible disease called leprosy. The Israelites forced the leper to live outside, away from family and friends. They had to wear torn and ragged clothes, shave their heads and cry out “unclean” as they made their way around. Not only did they felt the exclusion of others, but they also felt that God had cursed them with this terrible affliction because of their sinfulness. Because of that they even hated themselves – thinking that even the Creator despised his creation. To whom could they turn for help?

            It took a great deal of courage and determination for the leper to approach Jesus. Kneeling down he begged the Lord: “If you wish, you can make me clean.” Notice what Jesus did: Filled with compassion, he stretched out his hand, touched the leper, and said, “I do will it. Be made clean.” The leprosy left him then and there. An outsider was made to feel as though he belonged. Jesus touched the most untouchable of all people. Jesus’ touch cured the leper; Jesus’ love healed the leper of his woundedness and brokenness.

            Bilang mga alagad ni Kristo, tungkulin natin na ipagpatuloy ang kanyang ministry of healing, ministry of touching people. Ngayong panahon ng pandemya, isang napakalaking hamon sa atin kung paano natin magagampanan ang ganitong ministri. How can we perform this ministry of touching and healing people in a time of social distancing or physical distancing? I want to invite you to bring that question into prayer.

            Each day we are challenged to reach out and touch the untouchables in our society. We are to break down those divisions that separate us – those barriers we put up because of fear and insecurity, those walls of selfishness and lack of consideration, of pride and arrogance, of prejudice and discrimination, so that no one is an outsider, no one ever feels alienated from God’s care, concern, and love. We are to recognize that all people, no matter what color, creed, or status in life are our brothers and sisters in the Lord.

            May mercy and compassion find resonance in our hearts that we may become instruments of healing today – wounded healers to one another. 

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