I do will it. Be made clean.
Last September, the Vatican opened the cause for canonization of John Bradburne, a British man who died in 1979 after spending fifteen years serving people with leprosy in Zimbabwe. Bradburne was known and loved for his ability to look past the disease and deformities of the people he cared for and treat them with dignity and respect.
One example was a woman named Veronica. She was so filled with distress because of her disfigured face that no one recalled ever seeing her smile. But then one day, in front of everyone, Bradburne said to her, “Oh, Veronica, when you get to heaven, you will look so beautiful, really beautiful.” His tone was so sincere and matter-of-fact that she smiled for the first time.
The experience was life changing. Veronica became a source of comfort to many other people afterward. She ran (although toeless) to their beds when they were distressed and never missed an opportunity to offer words of consolation to dying comrades. Bradburne had touched her with his words and healed her heart.
According to the World Health Organization, the number of people with leprosy, or Hansen’s disease, has decreased dramatically over the past twenty years: from 5.2 million people down to just over 175,000. But while instances of Hansen’s disease are becoming rarer, instances of social isolation and exclusion are growing exponentially. People on every part of the social and economic spectrum struggle to feel connected, valued, and loved. Longing for human contact, they feel like Veronica or like the man in today’s Gospel (Luke 5:13).
You can be Christ to these people. By the grace of his Spirit, you can learn to see them through his eyes of love. You may or may not be able to bring them physical healing or healing of their memories. You may or may not be able to help them reconcile with someone who has hurt them. But you can bring them the healing that comes from encountering Jesus. Through your words and actions, you can show them that they are not alone. You can show them that Jesus sees them, values them, and loves them deeply.
“Lord, give me the courage to reach out and touch the lonely and forgotten with your love.”
1 John 5:5-13
Psalm 147:12-15, 19-20
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