When Jesus came down from the mountain, large crowds followed him.
Then a leper came forward. He knelt before him and said, “Sir, if you want to, you can make me clean.” Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, “I want to, be clean again.” At that very moment the man was cleansed from his leprosy. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you do not tell anyone, but go to the priest, have yourself declared clean, and offer the gift that Moses commanded as evidence for them.”
Persons with leprosy are barred from physical contact to avoid polluting others. They must cry out “Unclean, unclean!” to warn others of their presence. Socially, a leper is deprived of community involvement; they lived outside the city limits. Religiously, he cannot participate in religious activities, because sickness is considered a punishment for sin. Adding insult to injury, he is robbed of self-esteem.
Jesus’ action in today’s Gospel is unprecedented and anti-cultural. Contact between an unclean and a clean one makes the latter equally unclean. Jesus manifested his divinity in touching the leper, for as God, no one can make him unclean. By stretching out his hand, a miracle occurred, in the same way, by God’s power, Moses stretched out his hands and the waters parted. Above all, unlike the world’s idea of compassion that is characterized by handouts and honey-coated words, Jesus showed his completely different compassion (com+patire) by totally immersing himself with the suffering leper. Jesus touched him, for he had been deprived of human touch. The leper had been told to show himself to the priest, not only as proof of his cure, but also to restore his self-worth as a member of the community and the synagogue.
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