A leper came to Jesus and begged him, “If you want to, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I do want to; be clean.” The leprosy left the man at once and he was made clean. As Jesus sent the man away, he sternly warned him, “Don’t tell anyone about this, but go and show yourself to the priest, and for the cleansing bring the offering ordered by Moses; in this way you will give to them your testimony.”
However, as soon as the man went out, he began spreading the news everywhere, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter any town. But even though he stayed in the rural areas, people came to him from everywhere.
As we reflect on today’s Gospel, it makes us wonder who our society and our church consider to be the modern day lepers. Lepers were outcasts of society, banned from entering the city and forced to live under the restrictions of the Mosaic Law until a priest certified them as cleansed. So, Jesus’ command to the leper to submit to this procedure was itself an act of mercy, for only then could the man return to a normal life with his family and friends. Leprosy symbolizes our many fears, anxieties, unfreedoms, and prejudices. These make us unconsciously project on others something and anything in ourselves that we dislike, deny, feel uncomfortable with and find unacceptable. Today’s lepers confront us with our own biases and prejudices. They make us aware that we are also afflicted with leprosy and that we need God’s mercy and cleansing. Like anyone else, today’s lepers also need love, mercy, kindness, affirmation, forgiveness and hope. For as long as we are not healed of our own leprosy, there will always be “lepers” in our world who will be ostracized, banished, and marginalized unless we reach out to them.
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