Lv 13:1-2, 44-46; 1Cor10:31 – 11:1; Mk 1:40 -45
6th Sunday in Ordinary Time
This week’s readings invite us to think about our experiences of leprosy. Not the actual disease – the one that destroys the nerve endings and makes its’ victims unable to feel pain. Properly defined, that kind of leprosy is rare – even in Jesus’ time. “Leprosy” was the designation given to any kind of obvious, long-lasting, and revolting skin disease. medically speaking most of these diseases of the skin were not fatal, or even crippling ,and probably were a result of the poor nutrition and poor hygeine of the time. (We tend to take for granted easy access to clean, plentiful supplies of water in the developed world. There are billions even today who lack this basic human necessity.)
The real pain of leprosy among the Jews of Jesus’ time was isolation and loneliness. According to the ancient Jewish law laid down in Leviticus and presented in today’s first reading, the person found by the priest to be a victim of leprosy must “dwell apart, making his abode outside of the camp.” Leprosy marked you as permanently unclean, unable to participate in any of the religious and social rituals of the time. In its’ own way, it brought the same kind of desperate isolation as demonic possession.
And as in the case of demonic possession, it posses no probelm for Jesus. “Moved with pity” – a better translation would be “moved with compassion” – Jesus cures the man suffering from leprosy in today’s gospel with a few words: “Be made clean.”
What is the source of your isolation? What keeps you from opening the circle of your community to the one who is isolated? The list of things great and small that cause the walls to rise between each one of us and someone else is seemingly endless.
Here’s the good news – No matter how complex the cause of the isolation, Jesus stands ready to heal it. “Be made clean,” he says. Can we invite these words into our lives this week? Can we extend them to someone else?
Jim Philipps (3rd millennium pilgrim)
(To read my book-length reflections on the Scriptures and on the Church, go to www.twentythirdpublications.com or to www.amazon.com. I am also available to lead retreats, days of prayer and Bible study classes. You can contact me at: email@example.com)