Have you ever experienced something so wonderful that you couldn’t stop talking about it? Most of us have this experience at some point in our lives — hopefully very frequently. We fall in love and can’t stop talking about it. We have children and can’t stop talking about them. We get a new job and can’t hide our excitement.
Now, why in the world would you want to hide your excitement about something? In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus heals a leper. “The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter,” we’re told. “He spread the report abroad so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly.”
Let’s think about this. A man experiences something wonderful. He can’t stop talking about it. The result is that other people are curious and may want to connect to the same source of this happiness.
This, it seems to me, is a wonderful example of what it means to share the good news of the Gospel. It does not appear that the man healed of leprosy runs around ordering people to follow Jesus, or demanding that they do exactly what he did. He simply shares his own very positive experience.
When I look at the things that I am happiest about, and talk most about, I wish my experience of God were higher on the list. It’s not that I am not happy about following Jesus and all that this brings into my life. I am. One reason I don’t share it as much as I might is that people are so easily turned off by any discussion of religion. That’s probably because what they’ve experienced is not people sharing a positive experience, but people telling them how they should behave.
“Avoid giving offense, whether to the Jews or Greeks or the church of God,” St. Paul writes in today’s second reading, “just as I try to please everyone in every way, not seeking my own benefit but that of the many, that they may be saved. Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”
We are not called to offend people. We are not called to call attention to ourselves. If we have experienced the transforming unconditional love of God, it ought to be something we are able to share naturally and enthusiastically.
Today’s readings challenge me in two ways: to perhaps be more open to sharing the good news I have experienced in my own life, and to continually reconnect with God so that I have good news to share. If I am discouraged, fearful or anxious, that is what I tend to share. It’s not good news.
The leper in today’s Gospel reading is confident that Jesus can heal him if he wants to. We should be so confident. When we are hurting, we may not feel that Jesus is there for us. We may feel that he has abandoned us. That is not the case.
His message for us is the same as it is for the man in today’s reading: “I do will it. Be made clean,” Jesus says. “The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean.”
Bill Peatman writes from Napa. He may be reached at [email protected].