Every time I hear this Gospel, I wonder how awful it must have been for someone who had leprosy, especially in the time of Jesus.
We know that a person with coronavirus may be contagious 48 hours before starting to experience symptoms.
We need to get tested even though we have the mildest of symptoms and stay in isolation until we receive our results. Or even worse, you have to stay in quarantine for 14 days by yourself in isolation, locked up in particular facilities.
That is what we have been experiencing in 2020 and 2021. People are afraid of physical contact, keeping our distance from one another and all sorts of fears because of this contagious disease.
A contagious disease is not only causing physical pain and suffering for the person, but also it causes enormous mental stress for that person: the feeling of being rejected by people around, the feeling of losing social connection and the feeling of causing harm to others and many more uncomfortable feelings.
In today’s gospel, we heard of another contagious disease, that of leprosy. A person with leprosy is known as a dead person, and sometimes the funeral service cannot be offered because no one wants to have anything to do with the leper.
St Mark’s narrative shocked and surprised because Jesus healed a man with leprosy. This is shocking and surprising because anyone with leprosy was to stay afar and cry out “unclean” when anyone “clean” was nearby. Could you imagine that you were in the shopping centre and someone shouted “I am Covid-19 positive.” What are you going to do? You might run for your life. That is our reality in 2021. Back to the gospel; somehow, the leper got close to Jesus and then begged Jesus to make him clean so that he could return to normal society.
If a leper touched a clean person, he or she would become unclean and would also have to live apart from normal society. But, we hear that Jesus was “moved with pity” and touched him and made him clean.
What does Jesus’s action mean? Did he want to break the law or did Jesus want to tell us something else other than the law itself?
I do believe that Jesus sets a model for us all. Christians are to have pity on others; we are to have compassion.
What is so shocking is not the healing action but the manner of the healer. That is, Jesus dares to touch this unclean leper. He dares to risk contamination and impurity. He dares to risk the harsh judgments of all the respectable people of his time.
The action of Jesus indicates that the time for reconciliation and healing are at hand. Those who are far off can now come home and dwell as children of the one family of God.
We are all touched by various forms of leprosy. We all have our unclean areas and aspects of our lives which dwell apart from the sunlight. Jesus came into the flesh; God touched our human flesh; God spoke himself into our bodily condition; so true healing can take place.
The Word becoming flesh is God’s total, absolutely, never to be taken back commitment to each of us. God does not heal at a distance or play it safe in heaven. God cares and cures.
He is reaching out and touching us and inviting us to transform our hearts.