Sunday, 2/11/18 – Bring the Ugliness to Light

I see it in the world in which we are raising our son. We want to protect our kids – yes. We want to shield them from the bad, from the ugly – yes. But too often we raise them in a bubble, protected from everything, not having to solve problems, and not understanding that there are people that don’t have it as nice. Sometimes they need to see some of the ugliness, so that they know that life is not fair, that there are people that in need of help, and that they know who to pray for, and to develop humility, gratitude and compassion.

We all need this. I think we all live in our own little bubble sometimes. Many of us, myself included, often turn a blind eye to the ugly of the world. Turn off the TV. Stop reading the news. Avoid that street because that’s where the homeless people are. Pretend that the ugly doesn’t exist. It’s much more comfortable that way. There is something to be said for not filling up your mind with junk, but we can’t turn a blind eye to evil and despair.

The Scripture readings today talk a lot about ugliness, the ugliness of leprosy, instructing what should be done with those with the disease. The first reading goes into detail about scabs and pustules and blotches on the skin, the sores of leprosy. It’s not a pleasant read, but it is the ugly truth. And it exposes a truth about us.

So often the world would turn a blind eye to the lepers, shunning them, exiling them to colonies, and so on. We today, exile the ugly we don’t want to see. We turn a blind eye to it. Or often we react to it superficially, not with the heart. It may not truly be those with leprosy – which does still exist – but it could be turning a blind eye to those in need in our community, around us, or turning a blind eye to the senseless tragedy that seems to happen on a daily basis. We get immune to it, it’s just another news story, another page online the we can simply turn off, or scroll past.

Think about how many times you do this? We settle in to our comfortable lives, so many of us, and we don’t want to look at the ugly.

And this is most apparent in ourselves. We don’t want to look in the mirror, look deep down within our soul, and see the ugly in us, our sinful selves. The vices, the greed and selfishness, the anger and resentment towards others, and yes towards God. The worry, the fear, the anxiety. The despair.

All of these nasty things that we do, we bottle up, seal up and bury deep within us. We sweep that ugly under a rug, we exile it to an island colony deep within us where we don’t want to look, where we can’t see it. And then we put on a happy face, and we smile, like it doesn’t exist. But it’s still there, right? We know it is. We feel it. It haunts us.

All of this affects us. It affects how we react to the things out in the world, and those around us – the good, the bad, and yes, the ugly. It affects our actions. This ugliness inside that we bottle up keeps us from being the person that we truly are.  We’re angry, cranky, cynical, depressed. A cloud of negativity and fear shrouds us. Fear for that which may never happen. It’s no wonder this bubbles out in rage towards each other, on the highway, in the airports, in the malls, and yes, in our families.

The readings today are a little uncomfortable. We should feel uncomfortable. We should look our self in the mirror, examine our conscience, and stare that ugliness right in the face, and see where we need to improve, where we need to get better, lift up that rug and clean it out.

This is the beauty of the season on which we are about to embark. Lent helps us do this. Lent helps us – through prayer, fasting, and charity – to purge all that ugliness from within us, to purify ourselves, and come to Jesus.

It’s a time where we go to Confession, confess all that ugliness inside of us, and be cleansed with Christ’s Mercy.

We can choose to avoid the ugly situations, the ugly decisions that poison us, but we can’t turn a blind eye to it and pretend ugliness doesn’t exist – both out in the world and inside. It builds humility, gratitude, and compassion within us when we embrace it. But we have to face it head on and not bury it. And we can’t do it alone.

We can’t make a difference in the world, we can’t seek to understand anything until we make a difference in ourselves, and actively pursue the healing, the mercy, and the grace that can only come from Jesus.

Let’s use this Lent to encounter that ugliness in our life and world around us, and bring it to the Light of Christ through prayer, offer up our sacrifices for it, and give of ourselves, seeking to eradicate the ugliness around us through God’s love that wells up deep inside us.

Maybe, just maybe, we can make a difference and more effectively bring His Light to others.

About the Author

My name is Joe LaCombe, and I am a writer in Indianapolis, Indiana in the USA. My amazing wife Kristy and I have been married for 15 years and we have an awesome little boy, Joseph, who is in 1st Grade! We are members of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Carmel, Indiana where we volunteer with Adult Faith Formation, most recently with the marriage enrichment ministries. To see adults, and married couples embrace the sacraments, especially the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony is a beautiful thing, and being able to tap into my experiences and bring the message of God to people through the written word is a passion of mine. I am an avid runner! I love to run and be out in the nature that God created, so you will find me running not only on sunny days, but rainy days, and even snow! I love to train for and compete in distance races, and find a deep spirituality in running, and I see distinct parallels between running and spirituality and life. I am excited and extremely blessed to be able to contribute to this website and look forward to sharing my thoughts and experiences!

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12 Comments

  1. Thank you Joe for the enligtening read.It’s so true, the more I look deep within me the more ugliness I find! Hope this lent will be a fulfilling period for all.

  2. Look within for the ugliness and do something about it, yes, perfect reflection for me during Lent. I need to see my blemished self, in order to do better and be better.. Thanks Joe

  3. I quoted you today Joe in the homily at St Francis Xavier, Cheeseburn UK. The Congregation all said afterwards how thought-provoking and relevant your observations were. Thank-you and Dominus Tecum.
    Bill McG.

  4. Thank you for making this a bit more clear. I’ve been searching the internet for clarity…Directly after the first reading I turned to my boyfriend and said ,”I’m lost, I don’t understand.” I still don’t understand how you are able to come up with your reasoning from the first reading but I do understand what you are saying. We are all a work in progress & it’s always good to be reminded that we need to be more aware of our surroundings though it may be uncomfortable. Looking forward to this Lenten season. Thank you for helping to make this gal a bit more aware…

  5. Great and thought provoking. I read the readings today and thought “eh” another reading which makes no sense or not applicable. Your explanation helped a lot! Thanks for being “real.”

  6. Thank you for your words! Very much a reality in my world and hit directly on my areas of remorse and guilt. Your words of wisdom in your reflection I pray, will stay with me through lent and always! Thank you for for the reality check!

  7. Well said Joe. I know many people who promise during Lent to shut off the TV and not watch the news. But Lent is the perfect time to experience all the ugliness in the world today, to open our hearts to the cries of our neighbors in need and to answer those calls with patience, understanding, wisdom and courage. To answer those cries first we have to hear them. Lent is not a time to harden our hearts but to open them up.

  8. Hey Joe,

    Of all the diseases God chose to use to exclude and quarantine those infected, I wonder why He chose Leprosy? There are many diseases much more contagious, disfiguring and lethal. For a worse disease that was prevalent in that area around the time of the OT, look up smallpox. For the most part, the incubation period for leprosy before the onset of symptoms is around 4 years or so and, although disfiguring, one would probably die from something other than the disease itself. Other than the people cured by Jesus, there weren’t any known cures for the disease during the time of Christ (any of the people who were cured from their skin lesions did not have leprosy).

    What’s even more interesting is the people who had leprosy had an overwhelming desire to be cured so that they could be able to worship at the Temple. They wanted to be included, not separated.

    Now fast forward to today. The disease that kept one from worshipping is pretty much under control (yes, armadillos still carry the bacteria) and we live in a country that allows freedom of religion. And people are leaving religion.

    Somewhere in my reply there is a paradox.

    Mark

  9. When I was going through a period of chronic anxiety, I had to stop watching the news. All the news stories about suffering and dying compounded my anxiety. I’m over the chronic anxiety now, but I still try to avoid the news.

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with shielding oneself from the news, if one can’t handle it. There is enough pain and suffering in the world that we will find out about it without needing to watch the news. The pain we see may not make the news, but it will affect our minds and souls. Why seek out more of these stories?

    If one can handle the news, then fine, go ahead and watch/listen/read. But please don’t make watching the news sound like an obligatory action for all. Some of us can’t handle any more.

  10. Thank you for your work, the clarity and reflection that it evokes. I continue to pray for you and all the authors of this site. God bless!

  11. Joe, I really got a lot out of your reflection, it helped me understand the reading much better; but I have to agree with “A” , in the comment above. God bless you!

  12. Joe, great reflection. How I wish there was no “ugly” in me. Lent is a good time to expose and eradicate those things. I appreciate your good words.

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