Today's Gospel reading at Mass tells a story we just heard last week about the encounter between Jesus and the leper that wants to be healed. Well, okay, it's not the same exactly; today's passage is from Mark and last week's was from Luke.
Lepers lived a pretty rotten life. Besides the results of the disease, they were expected to live a life away from society. Leprosy was feared to be contagious, and so in order to not be killed for the good of society, you had to promise to "stay away".
The leper is cured by Jesus, and is now able to rejoin society, probably loving the crowds he can now walk amongst. The irony here is that Jesus began his public ministry out in the streets, in the synagogue, etc., and now that he has cured the leper (and the leper won't keep his mouth shut about who cured him) Jesus is the one who now has to stay away from the crowds and retreat outside of the city. In essence, Jesus not only cured the leper's malady, but also took on his burden of solitude.
How appropriate a day to talk about solitude, celebrating the feast of St. Anthony of the Desert.
The leper sought out Jesus. He came looking for God. Anthony also went looking for God, wanting to get closer to the Divine. His way was radical, even in those times: live in a cave, get away from the "things" that block God from us.
Ten weeks ago everyone around me lost electricity for days. Our "stuff" didn't work; we lost it. No cellphone reception, no internet, no television, no malls, no supermarkets, no movies. We all had food and water (not one person died of starvation or dehydration from Superstorm Sandy). Yes, I did what I was supposed to do as a Pastor: I kept the normal schedule of Mass and Confessions, and we provided meals and water to those who came for it. But, when that was done, how much time I could have spent praying, reading Scripture, even reading my class notes from Seminary days, and I didn't.
God gave me some solitude, and I resented it. How addicted I am to things.
St. Anthony, pray for me.