A Reflection for Father’s Day, 2017

The Posture of Loving God and Being Loved.

Jesus Cleanses a Leper (Mark 1:40-41–NKJV)

Now a leper came to Him, kneeling down to Him, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.” Then Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.”

My parents raised me in New York rental dwellings whose floor plans gave them the label of “railroad apartments” because their rooms lined up like train cars stretching from backyard to street.

To walk from the dining room that overlooked our backyard to reach the living room or my bedroom facing the street, one had to pass through two other bedrooms, one of them my parents’ master bedroom, with its load-bearing wall opening widely to a large living room and my tiny adjoining bedroom.

The master bedroom thus provided a thoroughfare for pedestrians. One closed door and heavy curtains to cover the opening to the living room provided privacy for my parents, but I frequently had to pass through en route to and from my bedroom.

My father, an ironworker, went to bed early and rose every morning before sunrise and headed for a subway or bus trip to some skeleton of a skyscraper going higher somewhere in Brooklyn. Each night, usually when “I Love Lucy” or “Red Skelton” or “Tennessee Ernie Ford” or “What’s My Line?” was signing off, he stepped into his bedroom and readied for sleep.

And as I tiptoed back and forth, the indelible image I retain is my pajama-clad father kneeling beside his bed, his steely hands folded and his head bowed, as he silently engaged in private conversation with God and undoubtedly recited the prayers he learned in his Methodist childhood and taught to my older siblings and me.

So, as I read about St. Mark’s leper imploring Jesus, I hardly attend to the conversations exchanged; I am impressed by the kneeling, the stretching, and the touching. These provide dancing expressions of need, hope, and love. In these movements, Jesus and the leper share desire, willingness, and hope.

So too, my father in his prayerful liturgy–on his knees, hands folded, head bowed–left me images of compassion and healing and modeled for me a skyscraping posture of love.

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