February 11, 2024 at Saint Eugene Catholic Church in Oklahoma City, OK
Leviticus 13: 1-2, 44-46 + Psalm 32 + 1 Corinthians 10: 31-11:1 + Mark 1: 40-45
Even though we have moved out of the age of leprosy, we still retain the social attitudes that went with it. We still bring our common fears and we still isolate people who are not like us in one way or another. There might just be a challenge in this Gospel today to name our modern-day lepers and change our attitude from fear and exclusion to understanding and inclusion. This is not easy when public figures and elected officials fan the fires of those fears with sweeping accusations, and horrible condemnations of those we would isolate for no other reason other than our fear.
A very brave man comes out of nowhere in this Gospel to approach Jesus. I always think that even before the leper was healed, Christ had worked a miracle simply by filling that man with enough hope and enough faith to risk coming forward. That’s the first miracle. It is the stirring of hope in someone trapped in a hopeless situation.
Mark is very specific with this scene when he describes what the man asks, and what the man gets. He does not ask for a cure or healing. He asks to be made clean. It’s as though he is a dirty piece of trash, and that is exactly the way he has been treated. Mark then pushes a little deeper into this moment as he tells us that Jesus was moved with pity. The Greek word that Mark uses to describe this deep emotional response is far stronger than “pity.” It literally means to “move the intestines.” To say it another way, Jesus had a gut reaction to that man’s appeal. That reaction moves Jesus to treat that man with the utmost respect in sharp contrast to the way he had been treated by others before.
The result of that gentle touch and that deep sincere respect from Jesus is more than healing. That man discovered that he was loved and accepted and that no one and nothing could ever take that away.
There is a real manifestation of God’s power here, but it is not that someone sick recovers, but rather that a person thought to be repulsive, unlovable, and even evil, is in fact, loved, and is the object of God’s mercy and compassion. And that is a greater miracle. Leprosy in our time has been cured by science, but science cannot cure what really troubled that man and still troubles too many others. Jesus did not see an unclean leper but a human soul in desperate need. Let’s be clear about this, these miracles were never intended to draw attention to Jesus which is why he so often asked for silence and kept trying to avoid the crowds who wanted more. He came to teach, he says over and over again. These miracles should awaken our faith in God’s providence, restoring a vision of a world where humanity is united as brothers and sisters in the love of God and one another. Anyone who would be a disciple of Jesus Christ should rise above the fears being stirred up in us and let their own miracles of charity, mercy, forgiveness and justice be proof of our trust in the God who is the real worker of wonders in our midst.