The Gospel lesson for the sixth Sunday after the Epiphany depicts Jesus’ healing of a man with leprosy. In 2009, Kenneth Schmidt invited readers of Homily Service to use the hymn “The Summons” by John Bell to expand upon the pericope’s theme of ministering to those on the margins of society.
“The Summons" captures the Gospel invitation to go beyond our comfort zone, to do more than is expected and even do it without anyone else seeing it: “Will you kiss the leper clean and do such as this unseen?” It asks very provocative questions: Will you let the Lord lead you into unknown places? Will you take a risk that not everyone will accept or appreciate your efforts, and may even reject you, because of what you do in the name of Jesus? Will you let your real you show, instead of hiding behind the mask of what you want people to see? Will you set aside your fear and go ahead with a Gospel life?
The songs’ point is simple and challenging. God is inviting each of us, by name, into a life of faith that does more than the world expects. God is calling each of us into a life in which God’s love and power can work through us to transform the world around us, as surprisingly and dramatically and radically as Jesus changed the life of that man with leprosy. God wants to do great things in the world, and God wants to do them through us.
In Jesus’ day, lepers were among those considered contemptible and untouchable. Who fulfills that role in society today, and how leaders help the church to overcome its fastidiousness in order to minister to them?
Kenneth Schmidt (2008): 15 February 2009: Epiphany 6, Ordinary 6. Homily Service 42:1, 143.
Kenneth Schmidt is the Roman Catholic pastor of St. Thomas More Catholic Student Parish, serving the students of Western Michigan University and Kalamazoo College. He is a counselor and cofounder of the diocesan Trauma Recovery Program that assists adult survivors of childhood trauma. He also trains mental health professionals and spiritual caregivers in the provision of effective treatment for trauma survivors.