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  • Writer's pictureChristopher Looby

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time B

I recently came across this wonderful little story from a magazine. It’s very short, so, please be patient while I read it to you.

A group of downtown churches took turns each week during the winter months offering dinner, shelter and breakfast to the city’s homeless. When it was her church’s turn, a mom brought her three-year-old and six-year-old sons with her to help.

Three-year-old Alex had just gotten new sneakers — green Power Ranger sneakers — and he proudly showed them off to the other volunteers. Alex had wanted the sneakers for some time, and after a tough negotiation with his mother, he finally won her over.

While Mom and the adults prepared the spaghetti supper, Alex and his brother Nick played in a corner of the church kitchen.

Soon guests started to fill the basement. Amid the addicted, disabled and mentally ill, one woman stood out. She and her young son looked neat, clean, and absolutely terrified.

She had just escaped a dangerously abusive relationship with only the clothes on her back. All of the women’s shelters were full, so they sent her to the church shelter where she and her son would at least be safe and warm for the night.

The woman asked for only one plate. She explained that her little boy, Darius, was too terrified to eat. Alex and Nick’s mother asked if maybe he would eat in the kitchen with her two sons.

So she made a plate of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and called Alex and Nick over. She introduced her boys to Darius and the three sat down. With boys his own age, Darius started to relax and began to eat.

Darius noticed Alex’s sneakers. He pointed in awe at the really cool green Power Ranger figures.

Alex innocently said, “Maybe your mom can get you some green Power Ranger sneakers.” Darius just looked down and said nothing.

As the kitchen crew began to clean up, Alex told his mom, “Darius really liked my sneakers. I hope his mom buys him some!” Alex’s mom explained that wasn’t too likely right now because his mom didn’t have any money. They didn’t even have a home. Alex just said, “Oh,” trying to understand how nice people like Darius and his mother could not have a place to live. Alex went off to play.

Just as they were getting ready to leave, Alex asked his mom, “Mom, if I give Darius my sneakers, will you carry me to the car?”

Stunned, his mom said, “Of course, are you sure you want to do this?”

“Yeah,” he said, “I have lots of stuff, he doesn’t even have a house. I think Jesus would want me to give him my shoes.” He took off his beloved sneakers and skipped over and gave them to Darius. As his mom looked around, there wasn’t a dry eye in the kitchen.

Over the next twenty-four hours, Alex’s generosity inspired other folks to come forward to help Darius and his mom with clothes, a place to live and even a job and daycare for Darius.

All because a little boy’s sense of compassion was bigger than even his awesome Power Ranger sneakers.

“If you wish, you can make me clean,” the leper says to Jesus.

The leper’s request of Jesus is a challenge to each one of us. We can transform our lives and world in the goodness of God — if we wish.

Jesus’ compassion makes it possible for us to perform our own miracles of healing and reconciliation, to restore to health and community those society considers “lepers,” to be vehicles of God’s grace to the broken-hearted, the lost, the despairing.

But what is first needed is the openness of heart and the humility of gratitude possessed by little Alex that enables us to put aside our own fears and doubts and interests to do so.

Christ the Healer and Reconciler promises us the grace to be imitators of his compassion and forgiveness whenever we are ready to take the first step in healing the wounds and cleaning the “leprosy” that afflicts us and divides us from one another.

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