Today in our first reading from the Book of Leviticus we hear how the People of Israel understood and reacted to those who were lepers. The author offers us a description of leprosy and then suggests how the individual is to respond to the disease. What is most striking is that the individual was forced out of the community.
In the Gospel, Mark tells us the story of a leper who approached Jesus for healing. This is against the Jewish law and so this person had incredible courage. Jesus likewise did a remarkable thing – he touched the leper – a forbidden action. As the story unfolds we discover the person is healed and Jesus invites him to return to the Jewish leaders so that his healing could be verified and so that he could return to the community. We don’t know if the man went to the religious authorities. We do know that the man becomes an enthusiastic witness to Jesus, he tells people what happened to him despite being asked by Jesus to say nothing. The point is made. When you are healed of leprosy, how can you possibly keep quiet. It is simply not possible.
In the second letter of Paul to the Corinthians, Paul tells the early Christians to imitate him as he imitates Christ. They are invited to do everything for the glory of God.
Wednesday, we begin our Lenten Journey. With Ash Wednesday just a few short days away our thoughts naturally turn to God – to the reality that our lives are fragile. Because of the Covid-19 virus and our desire to safeguard the health and well-being of people we care about, we have drastically reduced our social contacts. Many of us are feeling the pain of separation – of isolation. There is a longing within us for some easy social interactions – meals, coffee, shared prayer, play, visiting, sports. We want to connect with others.
In ancient times leprosy, the fear of leprosy caused communities of people to banish those who were infected with the disease. As we heard in Leviticus everyone knew what to do if Leprosy attacked their body. They were as good as dead. Jesus had pity on one such person. He healed him, he restored him to his community. He gave him life again. The man could not keep silent about this gift of life. He had to tell others. This gift came from Jesus and he wanted everyone to know what had happened to him.
Mark tells us that he was so effective in his witness that crowds came to Jesus. He could not function as he normally did because so many people wanted what the leper had been given.
As I sat with this realization, I asked myself about the power of my witness. Has Jesus touched my life – given me new life? What am I doing to share this good news with others? As a Christian, what am I willing to do so that others hear about Jesus? Am I busy sharing Good News or do I leave people discouraged, weighed down and sad when they walk away from me?
Today the readings remind us that today, our culture, our society continues to banish people. There are lepers in our midst? Who are they? There are also Jesus figures – men and women who reach out to create life and healing wherever and whenever they can! Who are they?
This week it is good for us to think about who we are. Am I the one cast out? Am I doing the casting out? Am I doing the healing? As a Catholic, as a Christian you and I are called to be healers. We are to stand with Jesus in the actions of healing. We are to stand with the lepers, with those who have been cast out.
Today, God’s word inspires us to change. Today, the Body and Blood of Jesus nourishes us so that we can become more and more like Jesus. Our capacity to heal, to make a difference is made possible because of our encounter with Jesus. In the name of Jesus let us welcome one another, in the name of Jesus let our touch give life, in the name of Jesus let us become healers, people who lift one another up. In the name of Jesus let us do all things for the glory of God.
Fr. Doug Jeffrey, OMI