Posted: 14 Feb 2009 01:00 AM CST(by Catholic Exchanged)
Lev 13:1-2, 44-46 / 1 Cor 10:31-11:1 / Mk 1:40-45
Some newlyweds had just settled into a beautiful condo filled with expensive wedding gifts, when they received in the mail a pair of theater tickets — orchestra seats — for a hit Broadway show. The enclosed card said simply, ‘Guess who sent these.’
They had no idea, and they still hadn’t figured it out when they went off to the theater for a wonderful evening. But when they got home, they found their condo had been stripped clean — all their beautiful gifts, furniture, clothes and jewelry — all gone! In the middle of their empty living room floor was another note which read: ‘Now you know!’
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The leper in Sunday’s gospel knew too! He knew what was wrong with him. He knew how to name it, and how to claim it as his problem and not somebody else’s. He also knew that if he ever wanted to get well, he had to let himself feel the full pain and sadness of being a leper and feel how badly he needed healing. And finally, he knew he had to ask for help if he wanted healing. So the leper told himself the whole truth about himself, and then acted on it. That’s how he got healed.
Facing the truth about ourselves isn’t easy, and that’s why we often stay so mired in ways of living that are hurtful, sinful, and devoid of joy. The soul-pain that we call ‘guilt’ is the alarm system that God installed in all of us to warn us when we’re stumbling into hurtful ways. The pain of guilt is a blessing: It can wake us up to what we’re doing; it can motivate us to change. It can help us name our sin, claim it, feel it, and fix it — that is, deal with all its consequences. That’s what guilt is supposed to do for us.
But what often happens is that we try to escape our guilt-pain by pretending it isn’t there, or refusing to look at what’s causing it, or expecting our psychiatrist to just take it away. This temporary anesthetic may seem to work for awhile, but it doesn’t, because it leaves our self-inflicted soul-wounds untouched and unhealed, festering just beneath the surface, waiting to resurface later in an even more toxic form.
False guilt shows up at times, especially in caring hearts. It’s a soul-pain that doesn’t belong to us. After taking a closer look, we have to say, ‘This just isn’t mine,’ and then brush it off.
But most times, when the soul-pain of guilt comes, it’s ours and it’s God’s gift to help us get our lives right. So when guilt rings its alarm we need to do what that leper did: Name the pain and where it’s coming from, and don’t discount any part of it for it has important news for us. Claim that bad news and that guilt as our own, and let ourselves feel it thoroughly. Finally, give it to the Lord for his help and guidance in repairing the soul-damage we’ve done.
Name it, claim it, feel it, fix it. With God’s help we can do that. We can make those soul-pains go away and never come back. The sooner we get started, the sooner we’ll have the happy lives God wants for us.