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.