Inspiration and "Outspiration"
6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

Throughout the history of the Judeo-Christian journey of faith, leaders of both traditions have frequently confused their own honestly held erroneous opinions with Divine Inspiration.

Even the most cursory reading of papal writings reveals this. For example, when the Second Vatican Council defined the radical importance of freedom of conscience it would have incurred the displeasure of a certain pope of a few generations ago who went on record as having described such a concept as being, "absolute nonsense." Yet another pope of the not too distant past decreed that placing boys and girls in the same classroom was "contrary to nature."

So too, at the other end of the time frame, erroneous traditional views, the origins of which were long lost in the mists of centuries past, were still current when The Book of Leviticus was written and they were enshrined amidst the truly inspired material of Sacred Scripture. A good example is the traditional belief that younger generations are punished by God for the sins of their ancestors. It is interesting that this belief persisted even though it was challenged by Jeremiah (chapter 31) and by Ezekiel (chapter 33). Some of the apostles clung to the related belief that a man born blind was paying the price of his ancestors' sins.

All of which brings us to Leviticus chapter 13 verses 1-2 and 45-46. There is no hard biblical evidence for what, in the 19th Century came to be known as Hansen's Disease until about 300 years after Leviticus was composed. What English biblical scholars translated as "leprosy" was a term covering a whole range of skin diseases such as psoriasis and eczema. But what is so hard for us to appreciate is that these conditions were perceived primarily as social disorders.

Rashes and boils on human skin, moulds on clothing and walls... all were seen as symptoms of chaos or the misuse of power. And so reactions to them were not so much of a medical nature as they were defensive measures to preserve the order and integrity of society. Therefore the sick were viewed as human symbols of social decay and were treated harshly.

It was, then, a society in which the sick and the poor, usually one and the same, were marginalized with what was proclaimed by the authorities to be the approval of almighty God.

Enter Jesus. The true reign of God was about to begin. The Kingdom was being manifested, though as in our own times, not fully implemented. Jesus turned the world upside down. He debunked the notion that the unfortunate were suffering because of the sins of their parents and consequently should be left to suffer in the name of justice.
He ignored the strict ritualistic rules against ministering to outcasts. He even made physical contact with them. And to back up his authority he cured them and did so in dramatic numbers. And then he turned around and severely reprimanded the rich and the powerful. Not because they were rich and powerful but because of how they got that way and how they abused their power and hoarded their wealth without any concern for the unfortunate.

Jesus made it clear that Creation and its fruits are intended for the sustenance and enjoyment of all. It follows that selfishness defies God... that the pollution of air and water defies God... but more than anything else, that the suppression and abuse of the innocent defies God.

No wonder Jesus' teaching caused unrest and discomfort. No wonder most of those in power wanted him dead. They got their wish. But he defeated death and his message continues to be preached, continues to be lived, but also continues to be ignored, rejected and distorted.

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