It wasn’t too long ago a friend shared with me the struggles of living with the skin condition eczema. At some point the condition can become severe enough to restrict the simplest of movements such as moving one’s head side to side. As he was about to start a new job the worries of his absence or even presence in the workplace community can cause. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him and people in the same situation. Imagine being in their shoes.
Over the last few Sundays, the Gospel of Mark shows the passion and energy of Jesus exercising ministry. He travels from one town to the next, seeking and healing person by person. There was no blanket miracle to cure the masses. Each miracle was an individual encounter with the person. Each time a genuine and heartfelt gesture is expressed. Last Sunday, Jesus took the hand of a person with fever and helped her up. This week, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched the leper. Jesus shows his closeness by touch.
Other forms of closeness were shown. The exchange of words. The leper in a desperate tone of voice says, “If you want to you can cure me”. In response the words “Of course, I want to” was accompanied by a feeling of being sorry for the leper. In some translation of the text, there is a much stronger expression, being “gutted”. Brendan Byrne writes “the simple response of Jesus, brims with theological richness. ‘Moved with pity’ translates a Greek word that literally means ‘moved to the depths of one’s being’ pointing to the lower abdominal organs. Jesus literally feels the leper’s pain and suffering.
This encounter shows both expressed their vulnerability by way of allowing themselves to be moved by the other. In their vulnerability they established a closeness which brought relief and renewed hope.
By Fr Hoang Dinh
Published: 9 February 2024