6th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - B
How does it feel to be an outcast? To be cut off from your loved ones and from the rest of the world? How do we endure pain that will afflict us for the rest of our life? How do we live when life becomes unbearable as death?
The life of a leper before and during the time of Jesus was a total wreck. Being an outcast and not able to live and worship together with his family and the community, a leper was a living dead. He was considered a sinner punished by God. In the story of the healing of the leper in the gospel today, Jesus wanted to correct the popular interpretation of leprosy and show the mercy of God.
In the story, we see two bold actions: On the part of the leper – his braveness to break the social norms to go to Jesus, carrying with him his unwavering hope ("If you are willing, you can cleanse me") and utter humility (he knelt down). On the part of Jesus – his boldness to welcome, to touch and to heal the leper. A miracle like this takes the boldness of both man and God to make an impossible thing possible.
Jesus understood the wretchedness of the leper being an outcast and rejected because he himself would also experience the same and even worse, later in his life. Showing his mercy and compassion, a) he stretched out his hand (Jesus bridged the social and ritual gap, the leper being separated from the community) b) touched him (nobody is allowed to touch any leper lest the person becomes ritually unclean; Jesus, by touching him, became one with the leper) c) Jesus said “I am willing, be cleansed” (the miracle took place with the actions of Jesus together with the power of His word.
The once dreaded disease though still exists today is now contained, thanks to the wonder of research, science and medicine. Presently “leprosy” has taken many other forms in our society: drug addiction, alcoholism, abortion, etc. But there is a spiritual leprosy that continues to plague humanity even today and this is SIN. Sin at its worst, cuts us off from God and the rest of humanity. It also inflicts the depth of our being with such loneliness of self-constriction which makes us even more wretched than physical leprosy.
Like leprosy, sin is already been contained! Though it continues to afflict us, there is a more powerful antidote that is offered to us which is the love of God expressed as mercy and compassion.
When we encounter a fellow leper, should we run away or embrace him as our own? Ego-constriction expressed in self-sufficiency and self-autonomy without the need of God can be the worst leprosy. But he who humbles himself and accepts the antidote of the self-emptying love of God, has found the fullness of life.