6th Sunday (B) – Leviticus 13; Mark 1:40-45
During the week we have heard many stories from the bushfire-ravaged centres of Victoria – many incredibly harrowing and horrific of great loss of life and possessions; some magnificent and miraculous of escape and rescue. Among these stories we have also been presented with others as victims have struggled to come to terms with their loss and begun to look for someone to blame. It was the fault of the arsonists who lit the fires, or the greenies who didn’t allow controlled-burns, or the government for not have early warning systems in place.
In the Ancient Near East one story was seen as essential for survival – ‘exclusion’. The way to achieve holiness / salvation was through ritual purity. You had to stay removed from anyone that was not living and following the requirements of the covenant like you were. So you simply must avoid anyone who is ‘unclean.’ Keep yourself separate from those who are ‘sinners’ & hang-out with people who are like-minded and obsessed about the same kind of issues, etc. Stay away from the wrong kind of people – notorious sinners; people who are diseased, etc.
In the gospels, we meet Jesus who again and again goes against this wisdom (this ‘framing narrative’) and associates with those who are ‘unclean’ and even touches them. He shows us the extent to which God will go to reach us, to include us in the kingdom.
You also see this tension demonstrated brilliantly in the Clint Eastwood movie ‘Gran Torino’ which shows a society in collapse, with multiple groups in tension and conflict. Strangely the character that Clint plays reminds us of the way that Christ was. (Note – contains spoilers about the movie.)
Ref: Watch Fr Robert Barron’s YouTube video on the movie Gran Torino (more spoilers!)