Today in the Gospel (Mark 1:40-45) we find Jesus on the move from Capernaum, through the nearby villages of Galilee, wanting to preach there as well. A man with leprosy comes and falls at the feet of Jesus with a pitiable plea to match the fact that lepers in that society are not only pitied but greatly feared.
People did not know what caused this wide range of diseases which included what we today call leprosy — but they knew that they were contagious — so the only solution was to isolate the victims and not allow them to have any contact with other people. Although the disease featured an appalling physical disintegration of body and limbs, the real pain of the disease was the social ostracism that the disease engendered. It is also tragic that many of the people who were forced to be ostracized may not have even had the disease but some other non-contagious skin complaint.
The response of Jesus today is odd. Jesus is deeply moved by the leper – some translations say with compassion or pity, but others say with anger. The Greek word can be translated either way. But once he heals him in a very matter-of-fact way, then Jesus warns him sternly not to say anything about the healing. Perhaps this is simply because before the man can be reintegrated into society, he has to be seen to be clean by making the appropriate offering that is prescribed in the Book of Leviticus.
Perhaps we can take great courage from the Gospel today, knowing that when we bring any of our complaints and diseases before the Lord, he will respond to us in the same way that he responds to this man: “Of course I want to, be made clean.” Jesus is never constrained by social conventions or legalities that prevent him from being part of our lives. If we have isolated ourselves away from family and friends, perhaps today offers us a chance to reconnect with our church family or offer that healing touch of Jesus to someone we know.
Sunday 06, Year B.
This was my final Sunday in St Paul’s, Camden. This week I move to St Columbkille’s Parish in Corrimal, as the Administrator, ready for the new season of Lent.
To listen to my words of thanks at the end of Mass, click here. It also includes a few thoughts after Bishop Peter’s 2015 Lenten Message.