Sunday 6 B, 14th February 2021

We are all lepers, now, and in need of conversion. Our leper here represents us all in this time of pandemic, but also, at all times, in need of spiritual healing. There are many reasons one could come up with for the emphasis in Mark’s gospel on keeping Jesus’ miracles secret, but here there’s an obvious priority given to praising God, to going to the priest first and obeying the dictates of the Law – the religious Law of Judaism. And also to obeying Jesus. This the man does not do and not only, perhaps, reveals his own need for further conversion but encourages others to come to Jesus for physical healing only. Part of Jesus’ mission is to reveal God to us as the God of love, the one who cares for us in all our circumstances and dis-eases, and so he, necessarily, has a great willingness to remove our physical suffering.

Of course I want to!’ he said. ‘Be cured!

But such cures can only take us so far. There’s a much deeper healing we are all in need of if his mission is not merely to be that of a great doctor or physician – adequate for a time until the next pandemic comes.

In our deepest need to put the planet right, there’s much talk, at the moment, of ‘re-wilding’ as one of many possible solutions. If we can reverse the decline in the natural world by setting aside large areas for wild life, by removing fences and re-introducing top predators or ‘key-stone’ species such as wolves or lynx or beavers or wild cattle, nature will begin to restore itself, and us, too; more trees, less carbon dioxide etc. Such ideas are, for a naturalist, wildly exciting, but there’s a depressing familiarity with what happens next. The people with the real power to make this possible, readily jump on the bandwagon and come up with all sorts of schemes and promises to turn the planet round but nothing really effective happens on the ground. It’s window-dressing to capture votes. You just wait until the great meeting on the environment to be held in Glasgow later this year, hosted by Boris Johnson – and keep on waiting. We remain, and will remain, one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world coming 189th out of 218 countries in this respect.  And so, many conservationists now realise that what’s really needed is, firstly, a ‘re-wilding’ of the heart – a conversion which takes us much deeper than any physical cure on its own; a conversion which will re-order our whole way of living, whether we are physically cured or not. It’s why I’m here, now, as a monk, rather than strutting around a nature reserve as a warden (some hidden regret still obviously there) What Jesus is after is regime change but starting, not with the politics of the day where the power seems to be centred, but with the place where real power resides, which is in everyone’s heart; changing politicians, or religions, for that matter, changes nothing if one’s heart remains unconverted: disobedient, that is, to God.