6 Sunday B: Leper

Fr. Jude Botelho: 

The first reading from Leviticus describes the terrible plight of the lepers in the Old Testament. The leper was considered unclean and had to proclaim that he was unclean, by his dress, appearance and voice. As long as anyone was suffering from this disease he was ostracized and had to live outside human dwellings. More fearful than the disease were the social effects of being an outcast shunned by society. In Israel, leprosy was considered as the ultimate punishment for sin. Though leprosy is curable today, it is still dreaded and we keep away from lepers. We still have lepers close by - people who, for one reason or another, are defined by their condition and not treated as people -the homeless, the unattractive, many diseased, the armless, the twisted body, people with Aids. Perhaps we need to remind ourselves also that we ourselves are often, in one way or another, inwardly leprous.

Handicap no barrier

Henri Vicardi was born in 1912 in New York City to immigrant parents. He was born without normal legs. He spent most of his early life in a hospital. He did not receive his artificial legs till he was twenty-seven. But what a life he lived! He has become one of the most respected figures in the fields of rehabilitation and education. He has devoted his life to ensuring that severely disabled individuals might have all the opportunities to achieve their fullest potential as human beings. In 1952 he founded the internationally famed Human Resources Centre in Elberton, Long Island. Henri has been an advisor to every president from Roosevelt to Reagan. Once, an interviewer asked him, "Henri where did you get such a positive attitude towards life?" His answer was a classic. He said, "When the turn came for another crippled boy or girl to be sent to the world, God consulted his Council of Ministers and they suggested that they could be sent to the Vicardi's family."
Francis Xavier in 'The World's Best Inspiring Stories'

The leper in today's gospel in spite of being forbidden to associate or draw near to people, boldly approached Jesus and voices his simple prayer: "If you wish, you can make me clean." He did not ask for a cure, his was a statement of belief in the all-inclusive power of Jesus, an affirmation of his own dependence on Jesus, an act of faith. He left himself totally open to whatever Jesus wanted to do with him. Jesus was moved by the approach of the leper, out of sympathy for the afflicted. He stretched out his hand and touched him. Jesus broke all conventions and touched and healed the leper. It was a symbolic act which no doubt shocked the onlookers. Most of us are afraid of the sick, the poor and the outcasts of society. We may give them a few coins, in order to get rid of them but we do not wish to touch them or to be touched by them. Yet we often seek a human touch. We feel honoured when someone important shakes our hands or gives us a pat on the back. "Of course I want to!" Jesus said to the leper. "Be cured!" And the leprosy left him and he was cured. He challenged us, his followers, to reach out to those society rejects today: prisoners, drug addicts, travellers, aids victims. It is amazing what people can do for others. People can rekindle hope, bring back the zest of living, inspire plans for the future, restore self-respect. They can even mirror dimly the infinite charity of God. Jesus had this great understanding of, and feeling for people who were suffering.

Made whole again

In 1981 Peter Cropper, the British violinist, was invited to Finland to play a special concert. As a personal favour to Peter, the Royal Academy lent him their priceless 258-year-old Stradivarius for use in the concert. This rare instrument takes its name from the Italian violin maker, Antonio Stradivari. It is made of 80 pieces of special wood and covered with 30 coats of special varnish. Its beautiful sound has never been duplicated. When Peter Cropper got to Finland, an incredible nightmare took place. Going on stage, Peter tripped and fell. The violin broke into several pieces. Peter flew back to London in a state of shock. A master craftsman named Charles Beare agreed to try to repair the violin. He worked endless hours on it. Finally he got it back together again. Then, came the dreaded moment of truth - What would the violin sound like? Beare handed the violin to Peter Cropper. Peter's heart was pounding inside him as he picked up the bow and began to play. Those present could hardly believe their ears. Not only was the violin's sound excellent, but it actually seemed better than before. In the months ahead Peter took the violin on a worldwide tour. Night after night the violin, everyone thought was ruined forever, drew standing ovations from concert audiences. -The violin story is a beautiful illustration of what happened to the leper in today's gospel. Through the touch of Jesus he was made whole again.

Mark Link in 'Sunday Homilies'

God's Power and you

In this book 'The Spirit of Synergy: God's Power and you', Methodist minister Robert Keck tells how he was racked with pain and confined to a wheelchair by the age of forty. In search of a non-chemical way to manage his pain, Keck explored Christian faith healing, psychic healing, acupuncture, biofeedback and medical hypnosis. Quite suddenly, 80% of his pain disappeared and has not returned. Keck believes that his healing happened when all his research formed a momentary gestalt - that is, a unified peak experience. This was his discovery of synergy, a way of using all the resources of body, mind and spirit for healing and pursuing wholeness. In his holistic approach to health, Robert Keck uses meditative prayer to tap the resources of altered states of consciousness where God's activity frequently takes place. Keck's contention is that if God can speak to us through dreams, why not let him heal us through meditative prayer if he so wills?

Albert Cylwicki in 'His Word Resounds'

The Samaritans

Chad Varah was an Anglican priest. In 1953 he buried a girl who had killed herself. The coroner, at her inquest, suggested that she might not have done this desperate act if someone had been around who would have listened to her troubles. Chad Varah decided to use his London church and a telephone to listen to people who were in despair. He put a small advertisement in the local paper, and during the first week he had 27 calls. Soon he was listening and advising people 12 hours a day. There were so many people waiting in his outer office to see him that he asked some of his congregation to come and provide cups of tea for them. Then he found that often people who had come into his outer office in great distress had become different people by the time they reached him, and some did not even wait to see him because one of the helpers had befriended them. So he decided to train a group of his congregation so that they could become more helpful in the way they befriended the clients. That is how the Samaritans were formed.

Gerard Fuller in 'Stories for All Seasons'

Your children are not your own

In his famous book 'The Prophet' the Lebanese poet and mystic Khalil Gibran writes, "Your children are not your own, They come through you but not from you. And though they are with you yet they belong not to you. You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you." The Church normally celebrates Holy Childhood day around this time. This should remind us of the Holy Child who identifies with the little ones of society. Indeed today we should pray that we become more childlike, striving to be like our children. Children call for our immediate attention since they are the most vulnerable of society. We cannot say we will do something for them 'tomorrow'. Their name is 'today'. Hence, let us reach out to our children and also to the 'little ones' in society.
Francis Gonsalves in 'Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds'

He touched me

Some years ago, a man collapsed on a busy corner in downtown Brooklyn. Within minutes an ambulance rushed him to the nearest General Hospital. From time to time he would regain consciousness and would keep calling for his son. In his wallet, the attending nurse found an old letter, which indicated that he had a son, who was a marine stationed in North Carolina. So she called and asked him to come over immediately. As soon as he arrived, the nurse took him to the man's bedside and whispered, "Your son is here! Your son is here!" The old man opened his eyes, and even though he could not recognize the face, he noticed the marine uniform. Reaching out compassionately the young marine took the old man's hand and held it lovingly. Sometime later the nurse urged him to go out and have something to eat and drink. But the marine declined, only asking for a chair, so he could sit by the old man's bedside and keep holding his hand. Sometime before dawn the patient passed away. Stepping up to the marine, the nurse extended her sympathy. "Nurse" he stammered, "who is this man?" The nurse couldn't believe her ears. "Why?" she replied hesitantly, "I thought he was your father." "Quite honestly, nurse, my father died some time ago. I have never seen this man before in my life." "Then why did you not say something earlier?" asked the nurse. "I would have" answered the marine, "but I could see that he was too sick to realize that I wasn't his son. I could also see that he was slipping fast and that he needed the comfort of his son. And so I decided to stay." Compassion is indeed a virtue that makes the love and concern of God a tangible reality for another human being in distress.


God wants us to be whole and bring healing to others! May we be wounded healers!

Fr.Tony Kadavil: 
#1: The healing touch:

Studies show that babies who are not touched may die. Experts tell us that infants need to be held a lot. They have a basic need for physical warmth. Marcel Gerber was sent by a United Nations committee to study the effects of protein deficiency on Ugandan children. She found, to her surprise, that Uganda's infants were developmentally the most advanced in the world. It was only after two years of age that the children began to be seriously damaged by such things as tribal taboos and food shortages. Ugandan infants were almost constantly held by their mothers and mother surrogates. They went everywhere with their mothers. The physical contact with the mother and the constant movement seemed to be the factors that propelled these infants to maturity beyond Western standards. Many young parents today understand this principle and make it a practice to massage their infants. That's a wise practice. We all have a need to be touched. Studies have shown that touching has physiological benefits--even for adults. One researcher made numerous studies on the effects of the practice many Christians recognize called "laying on of hands." She discovered that when one person lays hands on another, the hemoglobin levels in the bloodstreams of both people go up, which means that body tissues receive more oxygen, producing more energy and even regenerative power. Jesus could have healed this man with leprosy simply by speaking, but he reached out and touched him, too. He may have known that this was exactly what this man needed.

# 2: St. Francis of Assisi and the leper:

Today’s Scripture lessons teach us that the sick and the maimed are, for us, not to be objects of scorn, but potential reservoirs of God's mercy. St. Francis of Assisi, for instance, understood this. At one time in his life, he had a terrible fear of lepers. Then one day when he was out for a walk, he heard the warning bell that lepers were required to ring in the Middle Ages. When a leper emerged from a clump of trees, St. Francis saw that he was horribly disfigured. Half of his nose had been eaten away; his hands were stubs without fingers and his lips were oozing white pus. Instead of giving in to his fears, Francis ran forward, embraced the leper and kissed him. Francis’ life was never the same after that episode. He had found a new relationship with God, a new sensitivity to others and a new energy for his ministry.

Additional Anecdotes from Fr. Tony Kadavil 

1) Segregation--past and present:
Until the Civil Rights Movement, African-American heritage was such a social disability that white shopkeepers would slap a black customer’s change on the counter to keep from touching his/her hands. In some restaurants, dishes or glasses used by blacks would be broken immediately after they had finished eating. If a black swam in a public pool, it would immediately be closed, drained, and disinfected. Even in some of our Catholic parishes, blacks had to wait until all the white parishioners had received the Eucharist before presenting themselves at the altar for Communion. The issue, however, is not only a matter of race. It's a question of all people in our society who are "different" from us. Our modern society ostracizes the gays, the lesbians, the AIDS victims, the alcoholics, the drug addicts. We tend to marginalize the divorced, the cohabiting, the unemployed, single mothers, Gypsies, the homeless, migrant workers and asylum seekers. People with AIDS also report that they don't get touched as much as they used to before they became HIV positive. Church workers and volunteers tend to steer clear of teenagers. It's hard to get people to work among them. Their awkward stage of development makes a lot of us uncomfortable. Their music, their dress, their attitudes and thoughts are viewed as alien. But such attitudes are unchristian. They have no place among Jesus’ disciples, as He teaches us today by touching a leper with affection and healing him with compassion. We must open our hearts and minds to those outside the pale of society if we are going to truly follow Jesus. 

2) Elisha, Jesus and Princess Diana:
A story which appears in the Old Testament offers an interesting parallel story to the healing of the leper, because it involves a leper. Naaman, the commander of the army of Syria, has leprosy. He hears there is a prophet in Samaria named Elisha, who has the power of healing. So Naaman comes to Samaria, kneels outside Elisha's tent, and asks Elisha to heal him. But Elisha will not touch a leper. He won’t even come out to be near Naaman the leper. Instead, he sends his servant with the instruction for Naaman to go and dip himself in the River Jordan seven times to get healed. Elisha would not come near a leper. But today’s gospel tells us that "Jesus, moved with pity, stretched out his hand, and touched him." Think of the image of Princess Diana, visiting children with AIDS in hospitals around the world. Nothing endeared her more to the whole world than, moved with compassion, that she reached out to the forgotten and the suffering of the world. And not only did she touch them, she picked them up, and she held them in her arms. She was royalty, who came to embrace the suffering of the world. We believe that that is what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. He sent his Son into the world of sin, suffering and misery to save the world.

3) “Love never fails.”
In the 1850s, there was a leper colony on the Island of Molokai, part of the Hawaiian Islands. People who were found with leprosy on the main island of Hawaii were put into cages, shipped off to Molokai, and literally dumped into the ocean near the Island. There were no medicines, no doctors, no shelters, no blankets--nothing but the hot sun during the day and cold wind beating on them at night. The Catholic Bishop of the Hawaiian Island knew that there were about ten Catholics among the two or three hundred lepers on Molokai. There was a young priest named Damien de Veuster who had been a carpenter before he became a priest. The Bishop asked Fr. Damien to go to the leper colony and put together a prefabricated chapel that had already been shipped there. Fr. Damien was instructed to have no contact with the lepers – no anointing, no confessions, and no burial because the bishop did not have many priests and did not want to lose a zealous young priest. But conquering his fears, Damien became the first non-leper to stay overnight on the island. He immediately began building shelters for the people. He constructed the Church and began saying Mass. He was surprised to find over a hundred people wanting to pray with him, even though only ten of them were Catholics. He was the first to show Christ's love to them in deeds rather than mere words. A boat came to pick up Fr. Damien after his thirty-day medical visa expired, but Damien refused to go. He built a water system, planted over a thousand trees to protect the people from the scorching sun and continued saying Mass for the people. Lepers of all faiths and no faith went to his Masses. They said, "He holds our hands when we die." In the end, Fr. Damien himself contracted leprosy. Towards the end of his life Mother Marianne and a group of Sisters joined him on the island and continued his work. On a little hill in Molokai there is a cross with three words from St. Paul's first letter to the Corinthians that sum up what was at the heart of Fr. Damien's work. The words are: "Love never fails."  

4) "You're going to miss Mother Teresa.”
Here is a story about Michael Wayne Hunter who was put on death row in California in 1983, in San Quentin Prison. After his third year on death row something happened. One day he was getting ready to spend time exercising when the guard said, "You're going to miss Mother Teresa. She's coming today to see you guys." “Yea, sure,” he said, "one more of those designs they have on us." A little later he heard more commotion about it and thought it might be true, that Mother Teresa was actually coming to see them. Another guard said, "Don't go into your cells and lock up. Mother Teresa stayed to see you guys." So Michael jogged up to the front in gym shorts and a tattered basketball shirt with the arms ripped out, and on the other side of the security screen was this tiny woman who looked 100 years old. Yes, it was Mother Teresa. This hardened prisoner wrote about his experience, he said, "You have to understand that, basically, I'm a dead man. I don't have to observe any sort of social convention; and as a result, I can break all the rules, say what I want. But one look at this Nobel Prize winner, this woman so many people view as a living saint, and I was speechless." Michael said an incredible vitality and warmth came from her wizened, piercing eyes. She smiled at him, blessed a religious medal, and put it in his hands. This murderer, who wouldn't have walked voluntarily down the hall to see the Warden, the Governor, the President, or the Pope, stood before this woman, and all he could say was, "Thank you, Mother Teresa." Now listen to what happens: At one point Mother Teresa turned and pointed her hand at the sergeant, "What you do to these men," she told him, "you do to God." The sergeant almost faded away in surprise and wonder. He couldn't believe Mother Teresa just said that to him. That day was a turning point in the life of Michael Wayne Hunter. This San Quentin Death Row prisoner was cleansed by that experience. Life changed. Suddenly there was meaning to it. So drastic was the change a new trial was set and the death penalty was not sought. The verdict was guilty on two counts of first-degree murder but a new sentence was given: Life. Life, without the possibility of parole. Prosecution did not seek the death penalty because Mr. Hunter was now a model prisoner and an award-winning writer. He is one other thing: A testimony that Christ still is willing to heal, still willing to touch the untouchable, and to make us whole. ( Sermons, Brett Blair and Staff).  

5) “Visit us and talk to us; we don’t bite.”
Michael Kirwan, a long time member of the Catholic Community Worker in Washington, DC, who was highly respected for his work of feeding and caring for the homeless in that city, once told the story of how he began his work. "One night I brought down a large gallon plastic jug of split pea soup and set it down on the cement block near the heating vent where the poor and the homeless people gathered. A rather rough looking fellow picked up the jar of soup by surprise and, in one motion, broke the jar over my head.” Instead of running away, I asked the man why he had done that. These were probably the first words I had ever spoken to any of them. He told me that I was doing nothing more than bringing food to the dogs. I was bringing food, setting it down like I was feeding them out of a pet dish and then just walking away. He said, “Talk to us. Visit us. We don't bite.” "From what happened that night,” Michael said, “I realized that these men and women on the street wanted to be loved and respected and listened to. They cared that someone cared about them, but just giving food and a blanket was not enough." In today’s gospel, by healing a leper, Jesus gives the same message of reaction against the unjust and inhuman religious and social isolation of lepers in his society. 

6) Billie Jean Matay, 52, sued Disneyland.
Why? Did you know that a few years ago a former Mouseketeer, Billie Jean Matay, 52, sued Disneyland? It's a fascinating story. It seems that Mrs. Matay sued her former employers in the Disney organization after being robbed in the parking lot of Disney's Anaheim amusement park. She says that she and her three grandchildren were held for hours by security officers. And she was asking damages because her three grandchildren saw some famous Disney characters getting out of their costumes. The children were allegedly traumatized to discover that the Disney characters weren't real, but simply human beings in disguises. (John Leo, Syndicated columnist, "The Speaker's Digest," Quote, March 1996, p. 53.) Now forget the lawsuit. We don't even know how it was resolved. Focus instead on the three children. They were forced to come to grips with what they believed about Mickey and Goofy and all the rest of the Disney characters. Our text for today calls us to come to grips about what we really believe about God. A man with leprosy came to Jesus. He knelt in front of the Master and pleaded, "If you are willing, you can make me clean."

7) "You've got the wrong number!"
There is a story about a New York City policeman investigating a case. Dialing the phone on one day of the investigation, he somehow knew before he had even finished that he'd made a mistake. The phone rang once, twice - then someone picked it up. "You've got the wrong number!" a husky male voice snapped before the line went dead. Mystified, the policeman hit redial. "I said you got the wrong number!" came the voice. Once more the phone clicked down. "How could he possibly know I had the wrong number?" the policeman asked himself. A cop is trained to be curious and concerned. So he dialed a third time. "Hey, c'mon," the voice said. "Is this you again?" "Yea, it's me. I was wondering how you knew I had the wrong number before I even said anything." "You figure it out!" The phone slammed down. He sat there for a while, the receiver hanging loosely in his fingers. He called the man back. "Did you figure it out yet?" the man asked. "The only thing I can think of is nobody ever calls you." "You got it!" The phone went dead for the fourth time. Chuckling, the officer dialed the man back. "What do you want now?" asked the man. "I thought I'd call - just to say hello." "Hello? Why?" "Well, if nobody ever calls you, I thought maybe I should." There may be nobody else in this world that is moved with compassion enough to reach out to you. There are lepers all around us who live isolated lives. And sometimes the only one we have to rely on is God himself, God who dials our number and says, “I thought I'd call - just to say hello” – God, who brings joy to the sorrowful, peace to the troubled and healing to the lepers, God, who embraces the lonely in the shadow of his wings, who fills the empty, and who guides those who are without hope. 

8) “God heals; the doctor collects the fee.”
Professor Henry Mitchell wrote about a time when his wife was recovering from a critical illness. He approached the doctor to thank him for his attentiveness and care for his wife, Ella. The doctor’s response amazed him. The doctor said, “First of all, give God the praise. Then thank the people for their fervent prayers. Then maybe I come in somewhere on down the line.” Henry Mitchell thought this was unusual modesty, and maybe even undue modesty, to which the doctor replied that he was just being honest. “You see,” he said, “we doctors don’t ever heal anybody. We may be effective in removing obstacles to healing, such as infections, but the actual healing process is not ours to control.” And that is true. As Mark Twain once said, “God heals; the doctor collects the fee.” We do not understand the ways of God. Why are some people healed while others are not? We don’t know. Truly, only God knows. Today’s gospel describes how Jesus heals a leper.  

9) "If you are willing, you can make me clean."
Rebecca O'Conner is a nurse at New York Presbyterian Hospital. When she saw the horrific images of the Asian tsunami, she knew she had to do something so she flew to Sri Lanka with eight other medical professionals. They set up a makeshift clinic in a downtown Sri Lankan mosque, treating hundreds of people a day with respiratory problems and foot and leg wounds. Then they discovered there was a hospital less than a mile away. So the obvious question was asked, "Why are people coming to us when there is another large hospital clinic so close?" A Sri Lankan friend was quick to answer, "At the hospital someone asks your name, age, complaint and then you are given a sheet of paper and told to wait somewhere. Here you sit down with the person, listen to their story and try to treat what you can." There is an old proverb that is right, "People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care." Hurting people look for care and compassion. 

10) Jesus' compassion reflects the compassion of God:
Some of you are familiar with a man who is called by an unusual name, Boomer Esiason. Esiason is a former outstanding NFL quarterback. Boomer Esiason and his wife were devastated when, in 1993, they learned that their precious, two-year-old son, Gunnar, had cystic fibrosis, a potentially fatal lung disease. Even with the best treatments available, most cystic fibrosis sufferers don't make it past their early thirties. Boomer and his wife developed an amazing compassion for children with special needs. They took in many foster children; they also adopted a young boy named Mark. And they started a foundation which is now the nation's second largest foundation for Cystic Fibrosis funding. Boomer and his wife, Cheryl, learned to live day by day, and to look for blessings where they could find them. As Boomer once commented on children with special needs, "They are the most fulfilling children to be around . . . I've been around a lot of these kids and every one of them has just been special, like they're angels, like they're touched by God." [Todd Richissin, Fathers & Sons (Philadelphia: Running Press, 2000), pp. 131-132.]  

11) Accept illness and give God a chance to heal it, as the leper did:
Byron Janis was a world-class pianist. For the last years of his career he was fighting arthritis. With the kind of cruel irony that life sometimes imposes upon us, the arthritis settled in his hands. For years he continued to play with arthritis, keeping his disease a secret. But after a while he couldn't hide it. During that period he practiced five or six hours a day to keep his hands limber. Finally they became so swollen and sore that he had to quit. He retreated into his apartment in New York, and retreated into depression. He thought that his life was over. Probably out of that despair, he stopped taking his medicine. Then he discovered that he was feeling more alert and sensitive to what was going on around him. He felt better. Then began a transformation in his life. First of all he came to terms with his condition. He said for the first time he could say, "OK, I've got arthritis. I can accept the physical deterioration, but life is more than this." Then he began to consider the things that he could do now with his life. He said, "I could paint, I could write, I could compose, I could conduct." He wrote, "I can't control the fact that I have arthritis, but I can control the way I cope with it." He tried out everything to improve his condition: chiropractors, acupuncture, hypnosis, meditation, diet – the whole carnival of cures. He tried them all. Nothing worked. That is to say, he wasn't cured, though he got some better. "What helped me," he said, "is something that surprised me. I can't explain it. But I developed a personal relationship with God. I think prayer is important. I think the belief in God is healing." This story in Mark is told to encourage you in that belief. "Lord if you will, you can make me clean." Byron Janis, incidentally, did get better. In fact, he played a benefit concert at the White House for the Arthritis Foundation. At that concert he made the first public announcement that he had arthritis. He said, "I still have arthritis, but it doesn't have me."  

12) “Shirley Goodnest and Marcy shall follow me all the days of my life.”
A touching story has been circulating on the Internet. It's about a little five-year-old boy named Timmy. Timmy's Mom loved him very much and, being a worrier, she was concerned about his walking to school when he started kindergarten. She walked him to school the first couple of days, but when he came home one day, he told his mother that he did not want her walking him to school every day. He wanted to be like the "big boys." He protested loudly, so she had an idea of how to handle it. She asked a neighbor, Mrs. Goodnest, if she would surreptitiously follow her son to school, at a distance behind him that he would not likely notice, but close enough to keep a watch on him. Mrs. Goodnest said that since she was up early with her toddler anyway, it would be a good way for them to get some exercise as well, so she agreed. The next school day, Mrs. Goodnest and her little girl, Marcy, set out following behind Timmy as he walked to school with another neighbor boy he knew. She did this for the whole week. As the boys walked and chatted, kicking stones and twigs, the little friend of Timmy noticed that this same lady was following them as she seemed to do every day all week. Finally, he said to Timmy, "Have you noticed that lady following us all week? Do you know her?" Timmy nonchalantly replied, "Yea, I know who she is." The little friend said, "Well who is she?" "That's just Shirley Goodnest" Timmy said. "Shirley Goodnest? Who the heck is she and why is she following us?" "Well," Timmy explained, "every night my Mom makes me say the 23rd Psalm with my prayers ’cuz she worries about me so much. And in it, the psalm says, "Shirley Goodnest and Marcy shall follow me all the days of my life.” So I guess I'll just have to get used to it. ( ) As a pun, that is pretty bad: "Shirley Goodnest and Marcy shall follow me all the days of my life." But it's not that bad as theology. God is with us . . . all the days of our lives. And God is able, writes St. Paul, "to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us" (Eph. 3:20). The problem is not with God. Something in our modern world has robbed US of a sense of both God's presence and God's power. A man with leprosy came to Jesus because he knew that Jesus was able to cure him. Can you say that--that Christ is able to help you with any problem you have today? 

13) Is God’s power limited?
Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote a best-selling book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People, after watching his young son, Aaron, suffer from one of the most heart-wrenching conditions which a human being can confront. The boy had progeria, a disease in which the aging process is bizarrely speeded up. Kushner was told that Aaron would never have any hair or grow over three feet tall. At six years of age he would have the skin and bone structure of an old man. Harold Kushner watched his son shrivel up, grow weak, and finally die, all before his fifteenth birthday. Can you imagine anything more horrible? In his book, Kushner said he grew to accept God's love, but question God's power. We believe God loves us, yet we still hurt; so the only possible alternative is that God's power is limited. This side of Heaven, we will never know the answer to why, but we can know the loving care of our Heavenly Father. Rev. Richard Exley says we can do one of two things with our suffering: we can make it into a shrine or we can turn it into a sacrifice of praise (Hebrews 13:15). When we allow our heartaches to control our lives or harden our hearts, then we are making a shrine to our suffering. But when we turn our heartaches over to God and continue to trust Him, we are turning our heartache into a sacrifice of praise. [Richard Exley. Strength for the Storm (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1999), p. 18.]  

14) “Come to school to discuss Emily’s problems”:
In Tillie Olsen's moving story "I Stand Here Ironing," she pictures an anxious and impoverished mother standing at the ironing board and thinking about her troubled nineteen-year-old daughter, Emily. A note has come from the school asking her to come in to discuss Emily's problems, and this starts her mother remembering Emily's childhood. Emily was a beautiful baby, a miracle, remembers her mother, but when she was eight months old her father abandoned the family, and Emily had to be left during the day with a woman downstairs "to whom she was no miracle at all." Then, as economic hardship increased, Emily was left in the kind of nursery school which is only a "parking place" for children. Her mother did not know then the pain that was in that place for Emily, but, as she irons and reflects, she admits that knowledge could not have made a difference. She had to hold a job, and the nursery school was the only place for Emily. Emily was a thin girl, and she was dark and foreign-looking in a time when little girls were supposed to be blond and plump and cute. She was a "slow learner" in a world where quickness and glibness are valued. She was a child, not of proud love, but anxious love. And now, a note has come from school, but Emily's mother knows that too much has happened to Emily for there to be any real help for her at the school. As she moves the iron back and forth across the ironing board, thinking of the isolation and poverty and rejection which have been Emily's inheritance, she cries to herself, and to whatever power of mercy there may be beyond herself. Emily is a modern day leper, one about whom her culture has sadly shaken its head and said, "I'm sorry. The die has been cast. The scars are too deep. Nothing can be done." And yet, in her mother's desperate cry there is a hope beyond all hoping, an appeal to the last resort of grace. "Help her to know," she prays, "that she is more than this dress on the ironing board, helpless ..." [Tillie Olsen, "I Stand Here Ironing" in Tell Me A Riddle (New York: Dell Books, 1971), pp. 20-21.] "If you will," said the leper to Jesus, "you can heal me." And Jesus was moved with strong compassion. (L/12).