Friday, March 27, 2020
The image haunted me. The man had no teeth. He was lying in the gutter of a street where unclean water flowed beneath him. He was dirty and ragged. The smell of that moment leapt off the page at me. But she was there. Mother Teresa kneeling is this street of Calcutta … tenderly caring for this man who had yet to be moved to the bed where he would later die. It was an image that blended the most squalid conditions with the greatest of love.
That is the image I have of Jesus. He has just returned from the countryside of Gerasa (a city in the gentile region known as the Decapolis east of the Sea of Galilee). It was there that he had encountered a naked man possessed by demons living among the tombs. He commanded the demons to go into a herd of swine, which further moved us way beyond the land of kosher. Then he returned home and was being welcomed by the crowd when Jairus, a leader of the synagogue came to get him. Jairus’s daughter was dying. Jesus went with him.
Then as he was traveling, the crowds pressed in all around him. A woman who had had a hemorrhage for twelve years was trying to get to him. She had found no way to stop it. The image here is an unclean sight regardless of how we might interpret this scene. She touches him, which according to custom, meant that she had immediately transmitted her insanitary condition onto him. The woman is trembling because her condition and her action is as unclean as the man running through the tombs.
Here is Jesus healing both actively and passively … touching and being touched … daring to be thought unclean for his willingness to reach out to those who are unclean. This is Mother Teresa, now a saint, whose face is close to the face of the toothless, dirty, dying man in the gutter.
This is what following Jesus is all about.
God, who stoops into the gutters with healing, so cause us to step into the unclean places around us that we might discover you there. Amen.