Embracing interiority through prayer and reflection

For our part, we are called to consider what it means to be made clean. We are prompted to consider how Christ’s touch has impacted our lives.

Feb 10, 2024

Reflecting on our Sunday Readings with the Editor

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)
Readings: Leviticus 13:1-2, 45-46;
1 Corinthians 10:31 — 11:1;
Gospel: Mark 1:40-45

Today’s Gospel contains a short but powerful story of a leper coming to Jesus and making an unusual statement. The leper says to Jesus, “If you want to, you can make me clean.” Now what’s so unusual about this statement is that, for starters, it’s not really a request. The leper doesn’t ‘ask’ Jesus to be ‘healed’. Instead, he announces what he believes — that, if Jesus chooses, Jesus can make him ‘clean’.

The man’s ailment is described as ‘leprosy’. Leprosy is a painful skin disease that makes your skin look like it is melting, like ice cream on a hot day. People were afraid of it because they didn’t know how to cure it. And because people feared the worst, lepers had to live outside of town, apart from their family, and keep their distance from healthy people while supporting themselves through begging. Thus, whenever a person with leprosy walked into a village, he or she had to shout out loud, “Unclean! Unclean!” And everyone would run away from them.

The only way lepers could be cured was if a priest deemed them so. But worst of all, people equated leprosy with punishment for sin, which led to a lot of bad blood toward lepers – you know, the attitude that said, “You’re getting what you deserve”. So while we tend to focus on the physical consequences of leprosy in Jesus’ day, the total impact of being unclean had religious, social, and financial dimensions as well.

Can you imagine how it would feel if you were forced to shout out, “Unclean!” before walking into school or walking into work? Can you imagine how sad you’d feel if people ran away from you because of the way you looked? It’d be humiliating!

And this is why Jesus’ actions in the Gospel today are so beautiful. Instead of running away from this poor man like everyone else, He reaches out and touches him because He was, “moved with pity.” He touches the man, acknowledging his humanity. Jesus sees what other people choose not to. He sees a man who is hurting, a man who needs to be loved.
This was somebody’s son, maybe even a brother. He was a real person; he had a name.

Jesus consistently defies societal norms throughout the Gospels, reaching out to the untouchable, dining with sinners, and engaging with the marginalised.

But let’s get back to the leper’s statement which goes beyond a simple request for healing; it reflects his belief that Jesus can make him spiritually and socially whole. He desires more than physical healing; he longs to be ‘clean,’ restored to family, work, and worship. Jesus, understanding this, heals him through a compassionate touch, reinstating him into the community.

Jesus warns him not to tell anyone and to go and show himself to the priest. It’s an odd command, but Jesus doesn’t want to be known simply as a healer. Despite Jesus’ instruction to keep quiet, the former leper cannot contain his excitement and spreads the news about Jesus freely. The story is rich in reversals: Jesus responds with compassion, defying societal treatment of lepers; Jesus touches the leper, overturning the customary avoidance of physical contact; the ex-leper is restored to the community, while Jesus is compelled to stay outside the town; and although Jesus advises silence, the ex-leper passionately shares the good news.

Jesus loves reversals and much of His call to us is to see where His touch in our lives turns things upside down for the better. But how are we spreading the health, the wholeness, the healing, and the cleanliness that we have been blessed with? You see, unlike the leper, most of us experience Jesus’ touch not once but many time over the course of our lives.

We are made clean, we experience healing, forgiveness, wholeness, and holiness, not just once but repeatedly.

For our part, we are called to consider what it means to be made clean. We are prompted to consider how Christ’s touch has impacted our lives. Unlike the leper, many of us experience Jesus’ touch repeatedly throughout our lives. We receive healing, forgiveness, and wholeness, offering us fresh starts. This calls us to reflect on what it means to be made clean and to extend kindness to others, especially those who feel isolated.

This Lent, we are challenged to set aside judgments and practise kindness as a concrete expression of our faith. In doing so, we emulate Jesus and contribute to spreading the health, wholeness, healing, and cleanliness that we have received as blessings.

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