Deacon Kevin McCormack:
It is truly a great privilege for me to come back to Saint Charles and to be with you all. I thank Father immensely for trusting me with his congregation, and I just like traveling. I’m like the itinerant preacher sometimes.
It’s really great. I’m from Lynbrook. That’s my home parish – I’m a Rockville Center deacon canonically but everything else in my life, I’m a Brooklyn deacon, so it’s really kind of cool to be here. Now, today I get to ask you a question that I’m betting on your bingo card today was not there. No one thought maybe when I go to church, I’ll be asked, What do you think it would be like to know you’re a leper?
Anybody? Didn’t think so. But that’s really what the church brings us today, which, unfortunately, the church should have understood America better, because the big question I should be asking is, do you think Taylor will make it to the game on time? That’s an important. one, How many carbs are you going to have on Tuesday, on Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras?
And what will you be having for dinner, considering it’s supposed to be a fast day for Valentine’s Day and the Ash Wednesday? Those are important questions, but not for me today, at least today is the one day of the year that I think about leprosy. And I know that’s not funny, but it kind of is. I know nothing about leprosy except for what I read in the Scriptures.
And last night I spent about 20 minutes on Wikipedia. So probably the next couple of seconds of what I tell you may not be true, but it seemed they did. It was quite the authority when they they put it in the website. It’s virtually impossible for us to get leprosy. Today, about 95% of us have an immunity that’s already built into our system.
And the 5% that don’t. Antibiotics can pretty much deal with this pretty quickly. But at the time of Jesus and all through the Middle Ages and actually until antibiotics, this is a brutal disease, a horrible disease. And it wasn’t just a physical problem. We all have dealt with that. We have family members, even ourselves. We’ve dealt with illnesses that affect us all with leprosy.
Did it took your health, but it took your community, your family. It took your identity. You no longer had a name. Your name was.
When you came in contact with someone to be unclean, unclean. Stay away from me. There’s no hope for me. Even your own family had to abandon you. Now you become a leper. But to know you’re a leper is a very, very different thing, I think. And I think most of the lepers, they kind of fell into this despair, this brokenness, this acknowledgment that they were unclean, that they were broken.
But at the same time, there was absolutely nothing, nothing they could do. I think this leper in the gospel today is different. We don’t have a name. So when you’re thinking about this, you can choose your own name. One of the great ways to pre pray with the Gospels is to put yourself in that period. To think of yourself as an observer, as maybe one of the characters in there, and you kind of let yourself go and work with that.
It’s a great, great, great exercise, especially with length right around the corner. But I always think about this, this leper, this this unique leper. He never lost. Whose identity was he? No, he’s broken. He knew he was unclean. He knew that he was in a situation where it seemed impossible, but he knew he was more. He wouldn’t allow the conventions of the day to define who he was, and he never lost his dignity.
Despite his brokenness, he never lost his ability to dream or to hope. Despite his brokenness, he never gave up to the belief that he could become more despite his brokenness. Story tells us that he meets Jesus and he goes up to Jesus, which would have been absurd because again, remember the lepers were kept apart. They were not allowed amongst the people.
If Jesus was there, the leper came through. People with horrified they would run away. They didn’t understand contagion the way we do, but they knew it was no good to be near him. And this leper goes up there. The gospel says He begged and said, But I’m from New York. As you could probably tell the minute I opened my mouth.
And I think everybody’s got a little bit of an attitude and sort of what makes us who we are. And even if you’re not from New York originally, you’ve become New Yorkers and you have the attitude to welcome. It’s good to be part of it. But he looks at it and he says he’s he begs, but then he says, if you.
You can heal me. If you want. And I know we’re allowed to do this in the kids. You never do this to your parents. But I think he pointed a finger. That’s how you get your point. He looks at Jesus and says, if you wanted to, you could change this. You could change this. Now, in New York, we have several words for that reason we can say in church or Pittsburgh, Moxy or audacity, or just that he has an edge to it.
This leper, this outsider, this unclean reality. He had a right to go up to Jesus and say, You could cure me. You could make me whole. Now if that were my kid, or, to be honest, any of you, and you came up and pointing the finger at me, I would say, Who do you think you’re speaking to? My father would have said, Come here, Kevin, and then play this part of his head to the back of my head gently.
But to remind me that’s not the way you speak to your father. It’s not the way you speak to your savior. But the audacity of hope. The audacity of hope defied the convention of politeness. And Jesus looks at this man and doesn’t see a broken, unclean leper. He sees a friend of God’s. He sees someone who is much than anybody else could see.
And he says, I do. Will it? You are clean. Wow. Wow. I do. Will it? You are made whole. I wonder what that has to do with us. Because like I said, none of us are getting leprosy. None of us the good. But. But I do think the leper has much to teach us. Because here’s the deal. We spent a lot of time in churches, and rightfully so, to point out that there is nothing in our life that can keep from God.
God loves us knowing who we are, but we hold ourselves back. Sin is real. Original sin. The echoes original sin. A part of our life, no question about that. And we do live in a brokenness that’s the understanding of Christianity, that humanity is broken. But there are two ways to look at it. We can look at it one way and say, This is who I am.
I have no right to be with the Lord. He has no use for me. I have to stay in the back. I am not worthy. I am not worthy. I am not worthy. I am not worthy. But if we take the example of this leper, this Brooklyn leper, if we will, we have the opportunity to say to the Lord, and maybe we don’t want to point fingers.
Well, maybe we do it. Say, Lord, my brokenness is not my definition. My sinfulness does not define who I am, but my relationship to you is what makes me whole. Make me whole. That happens at our baptism, at our confirmation, and we receive the Eucharist in just a few moments to give to for this priest to make us whole.
Now, Lent is like 48 hours away. It’s a great time for us to say we are broken, we fall into terrible habits. Feel free to go through all seven of the deadly sins and see which is your favorite. But the one that ties them all together is pride. Lord, we come to you broken. And we know if you will it, we could be healed.
During Lent, let’s keep our ears, our eyes and our heart open to the Lord’s whisper. I do will it!
The Lord whispers all of the time. May we be made whole. That’s a pretty good prayer for Lent.