In the Gospel that we read on Sunday, leprosy is clearly a metaphor for sin. When a leper approaches Jesus for healing, the approach is a metaphor for seeking Jesus for his forgiveness in Confession. When we go off the rails one way or the other, we all want to be restored to our normal humanity. After all, we are all lepers, in our own ways, in need of healing.
As a metaphor, leprosy gives us a clue as to the true nature of sin. Why is God offended by sin? God is the Author of nature, the Author of all science. There can be no contradiction between what God reveals to us through nature and what is revealed through authentic Church teaching. God is offended because his beautiful handiwork becomes a tortured soul. God hates sin because sin defaces and destroys us. God is offended because sin afflicts us with moral leprosy.
Certain forms of leprosy are highly contagious. This property is also useful, to some extent, as a metaphor for sinful human behavior. The lepers inhabit colonies through no choice of their own: zero consent of the will. For sinners it is quite otherwise. How disturbing it is to see whole communities and groups willingly form sinful associations. It’s one thing to be a leper returning to the Sacraments time and again for healing. It’s quite another to be a proud and willing member of such a sinful leper colony.
Last week I stumbled into one of those leper colonies. The local School Board—whose members we elect—want our children to be educated about we used to call the birds and the bees. They don’t trust parents to exercise their God-given duties as the children’s primary educators. So the elected School Board set up a committee to review the content of the so-called “Family Life Education” program, from kindergarten through high school. Leprosy can be horrifying in itself, and we are all lepers in our own way. But I was more horrified by the sinful leper colony I saw. I thought that my parishioners might be interested to know who is steering the content of what their children and grandchildren are being taught in their public schools.
There were about 25 appointed members on the advisory committee. Most were teachers. A couple were high-school students. As far as I could see, there were only three representatives who objected to the truly evil contents of the Family Life Education program.
One of the members was an elderly woman. She was very curious as to when certain obscene practices would be discussed with your children. The obscenities she vocalized were startling. Even the moderator was embarrassed, and apologized for the use of the terms. But she admitted that those precise obscene terms were mentioned repeatedly in the 8th-grade curriculum. The elderly woman is a leper and a proud member of a sinful leper colony. But she is in need of the healing grace of Jesus.
A little high-school girl who spoke out at the meeting was also obviously confused as to who she is. In her tender years, she insisted that girls can be boys and boys can be girls, and should be so accepted. She accused those who disagreed with her of hate. But she herself is filled with resentment and venom. The little girl needed a mother and father to love her, to show her the way. Instead, because of the sinful encouragement of adults, she became a leper and a proud and angry member of their leper colony. But she desperately needs the healing grace of Jesus.
There was also a man who was also very passionate about teaching your children and grandchildren obscenities. When a few—only a few—brave voices were raised to object, he used parliamentary procedures to silence them. I often wondered how the Stalinists manipulated committee meetings; now I saw it first-hand. The man in his anger and hatred and his manipulation was a leper and a proud member of a totalitarian leper colony. But if he had the eyes to see, he too would see the need for the healing grace of Jesus.
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the meeting was not the elderly woman with obscene fixations. It was not the confused and angry little girl who desperately needs to know the love of God. It was not the parliamentarian who could not tolerate disagreement. It was not even the elderly man, dressed as a woman, observing the proceedings. The most disturbing aspect of the meeting was the majority of committee members who remained silent. In their silence, they raised their hands to vote in favor of every aspect of the debauchery that will afflict our children and grandchildren in public schools for years to come. As silent and complacent lepers, they are the most dangerous members of that colony. Their silence and cowardly votes allowed leprosy to spread like the contagion that it is. But they too, need the healing grace of Jesus.
Of course the people on this committee did not know they are lepers. They think they are healthy and normal: that to be normal includes accepting every form of obscenity in the name of freedom and personal dignity. They believe that Christians are the real and hateful lepers, who need to be excluded from society if they cannot be re-educated to accept different beliefs. Indeed, they believe your children and grandchildren need re-education to gain acceptance in their leper colony. In short, they want your children and grandchildren to be trained in mortal sin.
As I returned to the comforts of my rectory, it occurred to me that I am a leper in my own way. At times I am too complacent with my Faith, too complacent with the duties of my priesthood. And I am in repeated need of the healing grace of Jesus. But I have a gnawing fear. I wonder if I have become a member of a leper colony of clergy who, because of personal comforts and the safety of our beautiful communities, have become oblivious to the wolves attacking our children.
The need for Jesus’ saving love in no way requires or permits the sacrifice of our children to these leper colonies. We are Temples of the Holy Spirit. It’s time for some overturning of tables in the Temple. Do it.
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