Monday, February 16, 2015

Beaches, Palm Trees--and Leprosy?

Why was it necessary that God subject creation to the Fall? I love palm trees and the beach. In my mind, there is no more beautiful tree than the palm. Every part of it is useful. And the beach--what more can be said. If one has a lot on his mind, is depressed, had a rough day, a stroll on the beach, listening to the waves, wading in the waters, have such a calming, relaxing effect. It is "heavenly." Then I think of the fallen nature of creation, and I know that creation itself is groaning, awaiting the time when the children of God will be fully revealed. Although the moment on the beach is a sort of ecstasy, I realize that it is only a tiny snip-it, or foretaste, of what will be. Because of the sinfulness in me, I cannot comprehend how it is possible, but I know that it is true. I know that God gives us these little snip-its, glimpses, to increase our hope and desire for Him. If creation was not fallen, we would have nothing to look forward to: We would be in heaven now, with nothing to look forward to but death.

In today's readings, we heard a lot about lepers and leprosy. The leper realizes who and what he is. He wants, and hopes, to be clean, to rejoin society. When he sees the One whom he knows can heal him, he goes to Him, confessing. What about those who were not leprous? What went through their minds--consciously and sub-consciously? Subconsciously, were they thankful that they were not leprous, that they were "clean"? But were they clean? In Jesus' time, how did the Pharisees perceive lepers and themselves? How do we, as individual Catholics, perceive ourselves and others? Do we look at some people as "lepers" because we view their sins as worse than ours, or--even worse than that--because we cannot see our own sins, cannot see that inside we are leprous? If we could see our sins, we would go to Confession, but we are so sinful that, as the Pharisees, we cannot see our sins. We forget to compare ourselves to Christ; we, subconsciously, compare ourselves to other fallen humans. When we see humanity's fallen nature in others, it should remind us that we are also fallen, and we should pray for them and ourselves. "Avoid giving offense...just as I try to please everyone in every way, not seeking my own benefit but that of many, that they may be saved."

The beach and palm trees are beautiful. They are God's creation. St. Augustine compares the sea to the world. It is a good comparison. It is beautiful, yet dangerous. It is not entirely bad; there is some goodness in it. Nevertheless, it can kill you, and will kill you. I see its beauty, its magnificence, and I thank God so much for it; however, I must also be watchful. I am also thankful because I know that God controls the sea. He says to it, "You can go this far, and no farther." Then there stands the palm trees. To me, they represent the Catholic Church. They are so beautiful and majestic. Every part of it is good and useful.

May the ocean, beach, and palm tree always remind me that I am a leper, that Christ is able and willing to cleanse me if I continually come to Him. It was not necessary for Jesus to touch the leper; He could have just spoken the word. However, He wanted us to have confidence in His Body--the Catholic Church--that He He would save us and heal us by means of His Body. May the ocean, beach, and palm tree also constantly remind me that there is something more glorious awaiting us, more glorious than the eye can perceive at this time.
--Tommy Turner