In To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch says to his daughter,
If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.
I. What’s it like to be a leper? Jesus knew. The Greek verb used in today’s Gospel to describe his emotion—splanchnizomai—is politely translated, “moved with pity.” Splanchna are intestines, innards, guts. Jesus knew the leper’s pain viscerally: he felt it in his gut. And he paid a price for that. After he reaches out and touches the leper, Jesus has to leave town: his plans are changed, his life disrupted. He had to hide out in the desert. In effect, he trades places with the leper, climbs inside of his diseased skin, becoming an outcast himself. Jesus doesn’t merely lend a helping hand, but joins in suffering with another. For the Christian and the Christian community, compassion—that is, literally, “suffering with”—is an opportunity to be drawn deeper into communion with others.
II. In his exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis calls for a Church that heals by direct personal contact. He writes,
[Jesus] hopes that we will stop looking for those personal or communal niches which shelter us from the maelstrom of human misfortune and instead enter into the reality of other people’s lives and know the power of tenderness.
When we do so, the Pope writes (in a phrase that I love), “our lives become wonderfully complicated and we experience intensely what it is to be a people, to be part of a people.”
III. In two weeks, we are having a parish meeting where we will together discern our pastoral priorities for the next few months. The values that guide our planning presume that we, as a multicultural parish, have the unique opportunity, the call, to confront and work actively to eradicate the plague of racism, and to stand with, and stand up for, our immigrant brothers and sisters.
If we let go of our privilege based on the color of our skin and our social standing, our lives will become complicated. If we stand with the immigrant, there will be consequences. If we are bound to the poor, we will pay a price. We’ll feel another’s pain in our very gut. And we’ll “experience intensely what it is to be a people, to be part of a people.”