Here in the Caribbean the concept of the "gated community" is becoming prevalent, with those with the means moving into these communities. By living in this way, they are either secluding themselves from the rest of the society or keeping the rest of the society out.
This kind of living arrangement brings about the kind of exclusiveness which highlights the fact that there are those in the society with the means and those who lack them. The "gated community" is just one way of keeping some people segregated from the rest of the community even though those who live in these communities still have to mingle with some of the very people they are trying to distance themselves from.
There are a number of other ways we keep some people "outside of the camp". In many ways, our societies are no different from those in the time of Jesus who excluded lepers from their society partly because it was felt that their sickness was on account of their sin; therefore their punishment from God.
Leprosy was a terrible disease in biblical times. It was highly contagious and fatal since there was no cure for it. The law could do nothing other than exclude lepers from participation in the life of the community.
In our Caribbean -- but perhaps it is no different in other more developed societies --some of those choose to be on the outside, but more often than not they are pushed to the fringes of society: the teenage mothers, single mothers, drug addicts, the poor, the unemployed, the "less holy" people, the elderly and disabled; one's colour can also put one at a disadvantage. It is also very easy for someone in the Church community to feel excluded and even be excluded for a number of reasons. The place that should be one of inclusion can sometimes be a place of exclusion.
Humankind has, since the Fall, lived out the outside of the camp but God sent Jesus into our world to bring us back inside. Our stories today lead us to see that those who are on the fringes of our society are brought back in, they are brought home. In Jesus there is healing; in Jesus there is life.
When Jesus entered into our world his mission was to bring it from its downward spiral into sin and self destruction. As he healed the leper in the Gospel story, so too he can heal us of our sin; the very thing which keep us on the outside.
It is very easy for many of us to look down other people because they may be different from us when in fact those differences are minor and do not matter. There will always be those who for one reason or another, and through no fault of theirs, are discriminated against.
But each of us have sinned which puts us all at the same level; none of us is better than the other in the sight of God. Today we are called to look beyond our sin, our sickness and recognize that each of us is in need of healing which comes from Jesus Christ.
In the same way, rather than exclude those from the camp who may not be like us, we invite them in to share in the joys and in the life God gives us in Jesus. Jesus did not hesitate to heal the leper who came pleading for help. So too we receive that healing from our sin and from whatever may cause us to be separated from God.
Let us today then, pray for healing, of those situations that continue to exclude people for one reason or another. And especially as Christians, let us invite people to be part of God's human community, as Christ did with everyone he met. Jesus healed the leper and brought him back into the community, may we in our own way allow Jesus to bring healing to our lives so that we can bring healing to those who are desperately in need.
Paul reminds us that we should never do anything offensive to anyone but to take Christ as our example. The Christian life calls us to be people of example also, pointing people in the direction of Christ who is the healer.