Scripture Reading for Today: Mark 1:40-45 (read it here)
In Jesus’ day, the word leprosy was used for a broad range of skin conditions—psoriasis, eczema or any sort of skin ailment. Scribes counted as many as seventy-two different afflictions that were defined as leprosy.
Some of those diseases had no known cure and were thus greatly feared. Some were highly communicable; and so, lepers were required to live in isolation. Leprosy therefore had multiple dimensions—medical, religious, social, and financial.
The afflicted person, or those touched by them, were considered ritually unclean, and therefore unable to participate in public worship in the Temple or the synagogue until examined by a priest and pronounced clean.
In other words, both the disease and the ritual impurity were communicable. Being isolated, the afflicted person was unable to work, and very often was reduced to begging. In other words, the medical problem was terrible, but the other consequences added crushing weight to an already awful situation.
The priest was also responsible for assessing whether a leper was cured of the disease. If so, the Old Testament specified a ritual to restore the person to a clean state.
This leper in our Gospel passage came to Jesus begging on his knees. It is clear that he transgressed the fifty-paces boundary that he was supposed to maintain, because Jesus reached out and touched him.
The leper had obviously heard the news about Jesus healing other people, but he was uncertain whether Jesus would help him.
His plea for cleansing rather than healing suggests that he valued the restoration of his spiritual and social status even above his physical healing. It also acknowledged his faith that Jesus works by God’s power because only God can heal a leper.
Jesus was “moved with pity.” What elicited this emotion from the Lord was apparently the leper’s complete subservience to the Lord’s will.
Jesus gave the leper a stern warning to keep silent about the healing. This interest is connected to Jesus’ mission to proclaim the gospel. If the leper went about publicizing the healing, it would draw attention to physical healing and away from the healing Jesus was concerned about, namely spiritual healing.
It is unlikely that the man wanted to disobey Jesus’ order. Surely, he was filled with gratitude at this healing because it meant a return to the community, his family, and a normal life. But that gratitude and joy was beyond his ability to contain, and he told everyone about it.
So widely did he spread the report that Jesus couldn’t enter a single town but had to stay out in the wilderness where people looked for him still.
Out of compassion for us, Jesus cleanses us of our sins and restores in us the beauty of his image by the gift of his Body and Blood.
Let us also have compassion for the suffering of others.
Taught by Mary, let us also be the means through which Jesus’ joy and healing reach others.
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Let us make this a blessed day.
Keep Jesus in your mind and heart and share him with all you meet.
Fr. Michael Brizio, IMC
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