Reading and listening to the Gospel passage today, it seems just like another one of Jesus’ miracles. This healing of the leper is from the first chapter of Mark so very early on in the public ministry of Jesus. I say it seems like just another one of Jesus’ miracles because leprosy isn’t such a thing these days as it was then. Maybe we can actually have a greater sense for the miracle of this healing, though, if we liken it to Covid. Getting diagnosed with Covid comes with isolation and social ostracizing. Quarantine and testing until one is “clean” again. Now, imagine, the signs of Covid are outward blotches or pustules on your skin. Clearly evident. Longer lasting than fourteen days as well. Imagine a life of lockdown and quarantine, in which others dare not come close to you for fear of becoming sick or “unclean.”
Not exactly the thought I would welcome on Valentine’s Day.
There’s more, though. So much more. This event in Scripture is portrayed in Episode 6 of “The Chosen” series. Gosh, I could go on and on about this series. It changed me. You know I am the furthest from a crier, dad, and this show had me in tears almost every night watching in my bed. I cannot even describe it here. The pain and anguish in the leper’s eyes as he approaches Jesus and his disciples. The disciples react as if a ravenous dog with rabies has just come upon them. Thaddeus tells them to cover their mouths, for fear of breathing in the very air from him. Sounds familiar, right? Mask on. 6 feet.
Jesus silences them. He begins walking up to the leper with a look in His eyes bringing tears to my own. A look I recognize and long for with deep sighs in my soul. A father’s eyes as he beholds his child. A lover’s eyes as he beholds his beloved.
Ah, you are beautiful, my beloved, ah, you are beautiful! Your eyes are doves behind your veil…You are all-beautiful, my beloved, and there is no blemish in you…You have ravished my heart…my bride; you have ravished my heart with one glance of your eyes.[Song of Songs 4: 1, 7, 9]
“Please…please. Please don’t turn away from me.” The leper begs.
Jesus’ words come almost as winces. As if this man’s pain leaves Him short of breath. Leaves His heart ravished.
Sometimes when I read the Bible, there is this monotone, even robotic, type voice in my head. Sometimes a thundering trumpet voice. Seldom do I hear the anguish and love in the voice of the Son of God when He speaks with His people. This is why the passage in the Gospel today doesn’t move me to swell up inside. But it ought to if I know Jesus as the One who looks at me as His beloved. Who yearns for me to be His.
I belong to my lover and for me He yearns.[Song of Songs 4:8]
The healing of the leper doesn’t seem like it should move me as cuddling and chocolate do on Valentine’s Day. Like the look in a lover’s eyes. I am mistaken, though. The healing of the leper is the look in a lover’s eyes. Jesus sees me. All that I am and all that I have done. I am the woman at the well Jesus tells about her five husbands when she doesn’t believe He is the Messiah. He knows I have been adulterous. He knows I have idolized the things of the world. I have given them parts of my heart, and they have rejected me. Wounded me.
Just as Jesus told the leper He wouldn’t turn away from him, He tells the woman…
I don’t reject you.
“Only the touch of the Spirit can inspire a song like this, and only personal experience can unfold its meaning. Let those who are versed in the mystery revel in it; let all others burn with desire rather to attain to this experience than merely to learn about it. For it is not a melody that resounds abroad but the very music of the heart, not a trilling on the lips but an inward pulsing of delight, a harmony not of voices but of wills. It is a tune you will not hear in the streets, these notes do not sound where crowds assemble; only the singer hears it and the one to whom he sings-the lover and the beloved. It is pre-eminently a marriage song telling of chaste souls in loving embrace, of their wills in sweet concord, of the mutual exchange of the heart’s affections.” [Sermon on Song of Songs, St. Bernard]
This is the song I want to hear this Valentine’s Day. I want to revel in the mystery that God could look at me, as a Father beholds His child or a lover His beloved. Could say to me, “I will not turn from you, Lauren. I do not reject you, My daughter.” Could hold me; His left hand…under my head and His right arm embraces me. [Song of Songs 8:3]
I want to hear this song as He sings it to me to remember whose I am. Then I can be confident in who I am. Then, even though my desires will whisper to me of the goodness of the lusts of the world, I won’t be moved by them. I won’t be moved to despise singleness but rather to relish in it. To revel in the sweet melody “telling of chaste souls in loving embrace.” When this has become the song of my heart, as fully as possible, Lord willing, I hope to give it fully to a husband. I hope to join it with the song of his heart inspired by his devotion to God. That, he too, will never cease to remind me who I am and Who first I belong to. I hope to be two who “before they knew the beauty of the one and the handsome strength of the other, willed to surrender these things for Jesus” [Venerable Fulton Sheen].
“Women were created from the rib of man to be beside him, not from his head to top him, nor from his feet to be trampled by him, but from under his arm to be protected by him, near to his heart to be loved by him.”[Matthew Henry, An Exposition of the Old and New Testament Volume 6]
Happy Valentine’s Day, dad.
Your loving daughter.
PS- the “beloved” in the Song of Songs is understood as the individual soul and the Church as a whole. God desires the individual soul (person) to be in full union with Him, and His Son is the Bridegroom who has come for His bride, the Church. To be honest, this is not the relationship or impression I received when I went to church when I was younger. And I understand the sentiment, especially in the Catholic Church, the “I grew up in the Catholic Church, but now…” fill in the blank. I am right there with you. Fortunately, this lie has been busted for me, and with time, I have been able to experience something quite different through the same celebration of the mass that I originally thought was quite boring and rigid. The truth I have come to know is this.
“Everything about the Catholic Church is loving Jesus. Everything about Christianity is loving Jesus.” [Father Jim]
“When one is wounded by the Church, the terrible thing is the only way for them to be healed is to go back to their abuser. When one has a church wound, the only place it can be healed is in the Church.” [Father Jonathan Meyer]
“If you’re hurting this Saint Valentine’s Day, turn to Him, sweet sister. Let Him embrace you. Let Him kiss your forehead. Let Him wipe your tears. He loves you so dearly, more than you could ever know.” [Bella Rol, BIS devotion]