‘If you want to, you can cure me…Of course I want to! Be cured!’ – Mark 1:41
Most DreadedLeprosy is the most dreaded of all diseases both in ancient times and today. With all the warnings and sensitization about HIV/AIDS, many are willing to play Russian roulette with their lives. But they won’t do the same with leprosy. Why is that? In biblical times, lepers were treated worse than dead people. It robbed people of lives, limbs and liberty. It ruined people’s lives irreparably and consigned them to living dead in all the important areas of life.
Fourfold InfectionMedically there was no known cure at the time. All that lepers had to look forward to was pain, disfigurement and death. Spiritually, it was considered a punishment for a person’s sin. So a leper was labelled a public sinner along with tax collectors, prostitutes and the likes. Psychologically, they could not expect sympathy or compassion from anybody. People judged them to be somehow responsible for their afflictions. Socially, with leprosy considered contagious and no cure available, people shunned lepers and forced them to live as outcasts on the outskirts of civilization. They were cut off from the community of the living. If they ventured into a village or town, they had to ring a bell and shout “unclean, unclean!!” This was to alert the healthy members of the society of their presence, so that they would run for cover. From the first reading and the gospel, we understand that the leper who came to Jesus was gravely desperate and possessed a deep faith. His prayer is very short but striking, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” His prayer is humble but intentional. This is how you too must pray.
Sin InfestationToday, sin is the worst form of leprosy in the world. By intentionally doing what is evil, we cut ourselves off from God’s supply of supernatural grace, giving room for sin’s weakness which leads to spiritual death. Because of its repulsive ugliness, it cuts us off from the body of Christ (the Church), and has serious consequences for this life and the world to come. Many are infected but go about as though there is nothing wrong. We have become tolerant of sin and infected carriers, spreading the pathogen to an already dying population. Christians ought to heal society of its many maladies. Instead, we are offering it one more source of death. For such persons, the second reading in which St Paul warns us to be careful how our actions affect others, makes no sense. Even worse, those who seem to be doing their best to live righteously, lack the motivation to go from criticism to providing health alternative lifestyle suggestions.
In Need of HealingThe leper represents everyone of us. The scriptures say, “All have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory” (Rom 3:23). We are lepers in need of divine touch. By touching the leper in the gospel, Jesus assures us that we are still beautiful even though sin has disfigured us. He has the cure that will restore us to our original beauty. But first we must recognise the sin as the source of our ugliness and shut out or run away from anything and anyone who exposes us to the risk of infection. We too owe everyone the charity of preserving them from falling into sin. Never be afraid to approach Jesus for healing and strength. Implore him humbly to take away your sins. Frequent confession will ensure that you stay beautiful and away from the grasp of sin and defilement. No sin is too big that God cannot forgive. We who know what it means to be cut off from God through sin should be careful not to cut others off.
Bring HealingThere are social lepers around us, people who for one reason or another are defined by their condition, such as: the homeless, incapacitated or disabled persons, those struggling with substance abuse and addictions, notorious sinners, expectant couples, people living with AIDS and so on. We also need to be healed in our hearts from the leprosy of hatred, un-forgiveness, the worship of material things, waywardness, reckless and unprofitable relationships, attention-seeking attitude, prayerlessness and coldness to spiritual things. We need healing in these aspects of our lives so that we can love others with the same love that God continues to shower on us.
PrayerLord, teach us to desire holiness of life and shun the leprosy of sin and selfishness. Strengthen me that by my actions I may call many into your kingdom.
Today’s ReadingsLev 13:1-2,44-46; Ps 31:1-2,5,11; 1Cor 10:31-11:1; Mk 1:40-45