A leper came to him and kneeling down begged him and said,
“If you wish, you can make me clean.”
Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand,
touched the leper, and said to him,
“I do will it. Be made clean.”
The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean.
Then, warning him sternly, he dismissed him at once.
Then he said to him, “See that you tell no one anything,
but go, show yourself to the priest
and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed;
that will be proof for them.”
The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter.
He spread the report abroad
so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly.
He remained outside in deserted places,
and people kept coming to him from everywhere.
This Sunday both the first reading (Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46) and this Gospel deal with leprosy. Lepers were to present themselves to the priests who would then declare them unclean. They could not enter the temple to pray. They had a difficult time finding food and drink. They were cast outside the city so that they would not contaminate anyone. They had to cry out, “Unclean! Unclean!” if someone approached them. And certainly no one would touch them. Imagine how difficult it would be to have leprosy – no human touch, cast aside… They must have felt hopeless.
However, Jesus is our hope! The leper in this Gospel approached Jesus, the source of all healing. He did not cry out “Unclean!” This would have shocked people. But he trusted that Jesus was the answer to his prayers. He asks Jesus to heal him. And what did Jesus do? He did not run away. “Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched the leper,” and healed him. Jesus touched him! Jesus the great High Priest did not pronounce him unclean, but “be made clean”.
Sometimes we are afraid to approach people because we feel “unclean” from our sinfulness. We feel that somehow we can contaminate them with our shameful sins. This shame can even make us shy away from Jesus. And yet, His heart’s desire is to love us and heal us. Jesus wants to touch our deepest wounds and heal them. He wants us to be whole.
Not only do we feel ashamed and separated by our sins, but we also label others in our society as “unclean” – the poor, the homeless, the marginalized, etc. You can fill in the blank. Pope Francis is showing us the face of Jesus in our world today. He kisses those who are disfigured, embraces the lowly, lifts up the poor. St. Francis of Assisi fought of the urge to flee from a leper and he embraced the man. St. Francis’ life was never the same.
Do I feel ashamed and unlovable by God and others?
Do I label others around me as unclean or unlovable?
Do I go to Jesus in confession who desire to make me clean?
Have a blessed day!