A little dark for a Sunday, but so vital.
"If the promotion of the self is understood in terms of absolute autonomy, people inevitably reach the point of rejecting one another. Everyone else is considered an enemy from whom one has to defend oneself. [Society] becomes a mass of individuals placed side by side, but without any mutual bonds."
~Evangelium Vitae, John Paul II
Thanks to Jean Bethke Elshtain, from her new article in the March 2009 issue of First Things. (I would link you to it, but it's only in print at the moment.) It is a chilling portrait of a Europe that has (almost) fully embraced what John Paul II describes.
In today's gospel, Jesus heals a leper (or, in our PC-speak, "a man afflicted with leprosy"). The secularist culture in which we live is a sort of self-imposed leprosy--an extreme isolation from other human beings. All that matters is our own moral "imagination" and our own self-preservation; the concept of a communion of persons based in an inherent human dignity is lost. Perhaps through willful ignorance, perhaps through the more subtle routes of apathy and over-indulgence.
What matters is the manner of healing: Jesus touches the leper. He touches him in a way he hasn't been touched in years.
Do I believe this healing is possible for "Europe"--or, rather, for all the millions of individuals who make up what was once Europe? I do. But I must admit, after an article like Elshtain's, I hope with fear and trembling.