The Gospels lead us to conclude that every person, baggage and all, has something to teach. Each life has a story that needs to be told, not only for the sake of personal authenticity but for the sake of community. Each person in a faith community adds color and texture. Everyone has a place and has something profound to contribute. This notion differs from the linear Western model that puts some on a perpetual pedestal and others in a perpetual gutter. And those in the gutter should be out of the way in a prison, a nursing home, or a homeless shelter.
Jesus reached out to the margins, insisting society’s outcasts have a place at the table. Jesus also reaches out to the parts of ourselves we hide, repress, and deny, insisting that these parts have a place at the table. These marginalized aspects of our God-given selves are profoundly important, because they press honesty and humility. And as the Desert Fathers and Mothers have repeatedly stated, honesty and humility are the touchstones of the spiritual journey.
Repressing the marginalized in our society and repressing the marginalized aspects of our souls is just more dualistic, “us and them” bunk. God’s realm moves us beyond binaries to a holistic vision, where the marginalized are no longer left to pine away outside the city gates. They’re invited in, given a seat at the table, and assured of their God-given worth. When we experience new life in Christ, difficult chapters in our histories are no longer buried in our psyches, locked away in the shadows. The soft underbellies of our lives are addressed during prayer time and among people we trust, sometimes with trembling and tears. Then shadows are accepted for what they are: our crosses. When the crosses are addressed, we’re transformed.
Easter wasn’t intended for Christ alone. It is intended for each and every member of the body of Christ and for society as a whole. And Easter can’t be experienced until the cross is accepted. Easter can’t be experienced until the leper within and the lepers in society are embraced. Jesus touched the leper (Mark 1:41)! Oh yes!