Matthew 8:1-4 When Jesus had come down from the mountain, great crowds followed him; and there was a leper who came to him and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.’ He stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, ‘I do choose. Be made clean!’ Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. Then Jesus said to him, ‘See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.
Reflection I often wonder what the priest’s reaction was when the man who had been suffering from leprosy presented himself and declared himself clean. I always hope that whatever the priest said, the man claimed not only his healing but his rightful place as a full member of the community from which he would have been excluded.
I was once asked by residents from some poorly maintained housing to help them find a way of improving their living conditions. We held various meetings to which all the residents were invited and it was decided to form an ‘Action Group’ which would negotiate with the landlord.
To ensure an equal divide of responsibility, they decided to avoid a hierarchical structure and try to operate a consensus style of governance, taking turns in chairing and leading meetings. Not easy when the local council always would demand “Who speaks for this group?” whenever they met with them.
Initially the men in the group, many of whom had a background in old fashioned trade unionism took on the upfront leadership roles, whilst the women the hospitality and domestic roles and rarely expressed opinions. One woman was particularly quiet, in fact, totally silent. It transpired that in the past, she had experienced domestic abuse.
As the group developed, the roles shifted, and you could see members begin to grow in confidence. Then one day, the woman whose voice had never been heard at a meeting, began to speak, only to quickly be interrupted by another (male) member. “Be quiet!” she said firmly, “I have something to say.”
After months of hiding herself in the background, this woman had claimed her rightful place in her community.
Prayer Creator God, at times when we have feelings of rejection and not belonging. Help us experience the connections and community for which we were created. Strengthen us in the knowledge that you will always be with us. Amen.
Marie Trubic is a Church Related Community Worker in the Priesthill and Shawlands project in Glasgow.