Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, “I do will it. Be made clean.’” This image of Christ and the leper, one of the most poignant scenes in the Gospels, completes our three Sunday profiles of Christ and his mission.
With the opening salvo of the battle between good and evil, followed by the display of the “weapons” for the battle—loving service, the solitude of prayer, and the primacy of mission—we see the synthesis today in this image.
Recently, I was in a meeting with some teachers and we were discussing how the students of today are very gifted and adroit in getting their school work done with the use of technology. But what they feel needs deepening and development is the ability to synthesize and draw life lessons that will translate into life-changing action.
With greater access to more data, the ability to synthesize and integrate becomes a prime skill and virtue we need to develop in ourselves and in our youth.
Allow me to use the above description of Christ and the leper for our points for reflection. The description has two key points: one, “moved with pity”; two, “he stretched out his hand, touched him.”
“Moved with pity” is a succinct expression of empathy and compassion, and coupled with the action that follows, it shows the depth of Christ’s solidarity with others. This part of the scene reveals to us what we call in Filipino “pakikiramay,” the ability to feel with the other.
It is this pakikiramay that enables Christ to do what he did. This is what we call “pakikipag-kapwa,” the act of reaching out and touching the leper is a powerful image of Christ telling the leper—an outcast of society—and us that we all have a shared humanity.
Christ saying “I do will it” further deepens this solidarity of pakikipag-kapwa. It shows a simple and often overlooked element of compassion and solidarity, listening and conversing.
The leper approaches Christ in a moving manner and ends not with a plea but an acknowledgment of Christ’s person—no imposition or a sense of entitlement. He “came to Jesus and, kneeling down, begged him and said, ‘If you wish, you can make me clean.’”
Christ listened with his ears, heart and soul. This moved him and led him to act that it healed not just the leper, but the whole of creation.
A final point, to synthesize and integrate our reflections. Technology and the access to it have empowered all of us, but more so the younger ones who have a greater mastery of it.
Daniel Pink in “Drive” talks about three key motivators. The first two are autonomy and mastery. Most certainly these two are strong among our youth who have access to education and to technological connectivity.
Pink considers the third motivator as the most important one. It synthesizes and integrates all—meaning, beyond autonomy and mastery is what brings it together and makes us act and live with integrity.
In the era of the First Quarter Storm in the Philippines, the late 1960s to the early ’70s, Ateneo de Manila experienced a major paradigm shift. This was a time of riding high on the firepower of the best and the brightest Jesuits both from the New York and Philippine provinces; the flowering of the “sapientia et eloquencia” brand name, knowledge and eloquence.
But the question was asked: “Knowledge and eloquence for whom?”
We are at this point now. All of the advances, the gung-ho mood politically, economically, technologically leads us to ask, “For whom?” This Sunday’s Gospel gives us the best lead to the answer.
Christ reaching out to the leper is an invitation to pakikiramay and pakikipag-kapwa.
It is a time for compassion, action, and the building of an authentic community based on our shared humanity. The battle between good and evil, loving service, prayer and mission converge, synthesize, and integrate in this authentic community. —CONTRIBUTED