By Jillian Zaczyk
During the cold, blustery days of winter, one of my favorite things to do is bundle up. Arriving home I kick off my heels, pull up the leggings, poke my head through my oversized sweater, and cup my hands around a warm mug of hot coco. The layers of clothes and warmth make me feel comfortable and safe.
Throughout the years, I have gotten pretty comfortable wearing layers both externally and internally. Here’s some examples of what I mean: My planner appears like a pop-up book featuring the many post it notes on top of other post it notes that detail obligations upon obligations. I stack filters on top of filters on my social media pictures using multiple apps to achieve that likeable, tweetable look. When a bad day at work transpires into 100 million questions of doubt and disappointment. Is this what I am really supposed to be doing? Is that what you want from me God?
The layers of business, technology, fashion, and doubt are pit falls from being our true selves. These layers become a part of our daily routines, our muscle memory where we forget who we were, our very core before them. Thomas Merton, Trappist monk and famous 21st century author, calls our true self, the one hidden under layers of false ego, desires, and societal expectations, is God Himself living inside us.
In today’s reading, Jesus must sifter through layers of Jewish purity laws to illustrate God’s core. The Pharisees have an over reliance on the law that provides them a full sense of security. They are bundled up in the law to the point where the law becomes so important in itself that it eschews love.
Purity laws that were suppose to only be for the priest are extended to all in the community which marginalizes the poor and vulnerable even further (i.e. lepers). The man with leprosy in the story, and even those with Hansen’s disease today, are often banished from their families and communities because they are considered “unclean.”
Jesus acts with deep feeling and humanity, and ignores that layers of purity laws that detail the inhumanity of those with leprosy and Jesus’s own defilement upon contact. By touching the leper Jesus is affirming both of their true selves. The humanity and divinity of both men meets creating a miracle of freedom and liberation.
Jesus’s touch demonstrates God’s core is an active, tender, and unrestrictive love. This love stresses that purity is compassionate actions from the heart. Jesus wants to use this same compassionate touch to embrace myself and you still today; no appointment, app, brand name shirt, awards, or layers required.
Jesus’s actions beg me to ask myself: What layers do I bundle my heart and true self in? Are they things that strengthen my relationship with Jesus and others? What past experiences or cultural examples motivate me to tighten my grip rather than embrace myself for who I am? What stereotypes or basis do I have that I layer upon others and prevents me from seeing their true selves?
Thomas Merton once said, “A tree gives glory to God by being a tree. For in being what God means it to be it is obeying [God]. It “consents,” so to speak, to [God's] creative love. It is expressing an idea which is in God and which is not distinct from the essence of God, and therefore a tree imitates God by being a tree.” God calls and loves …. You. How will you strip away the layers in your life and prayer time and be what gives glory to God the most… You?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jillian wants to live in a world filled with corny jokes and coffee mugs that refill themselves. She is a youth minister, teacher, and missionary discovering God's joy and humor around the world. Her mission is to encounter Jesus and grow in solidarity with everyone she meets, especially the poor. Jillian graduated in May 2015 with a Master of Theological Studies from Boston College's School of Theology and Ministry. She and her husband, Jason, live in Cleveland with their lovable labrador retriever.