February 26, 2023 at Mary, Mother of Light Maronite Church in Tequesta, FL
2 Kings 5: 1-3, 9-14 + Romans 6: 12-23 + Mark 1: 35-45
I doubt that most people hearing this Gospel could pick out the most important verse from these ten. One verse reveals what the mission of Jesus is at the time and still is today. We are only thirty-five verses into the first chapter when Mark reveals to us what that mission is.
This is not about Jesus at prayer. Although he does run off for some “down time” in prayer several times in Mark’s Gospel. But, Jesus did not come among us to pray. It is not about the disciples seeking him even though this reveals how little they understood what was going on. The fact is, that from the beginning they thought it was about them, their power and influence. They liked being the “gate-keepers”. Remember how they tried to keep little children from getting close to Jesus? This is not about that crowd either. They are running around looking for him for one reason. He is amazing and entertaining. There was no Cable Television nor Super Bowl back then. Jesus was the best show in town and no one wanted to miss the next episode. Those people failed to go deeper into what it all means. They have failed to ask the question that matters: “What is God doing here?” In fact, there is no evidence that they think God is involved at all. It’s all sensationalism. At the same time, this story is not about this miracle although the condition of this leper is what sets the scene for this revelation that tells us so much about the mission of Jesus which becomes our mission as well.
“Go and show yourself to the priest”. That is the most important verse in this passage. When we remember that people in the days of Jesus believed in a system of reward and punishment. It’s a nice system for those who think they are “blessed” because of good health, good looks, good jobs and lots of money. It’s not a good system for anyone sick, a foreigner, or someone depressed. Those people were expelled from the Temple and the Synagogue, which means from the very center of social life. People shunned them. They ran away from them.
When Jesus sends the man to the priest, he follows the custom of the day which allowed the priest to reinstate a person into the community. The priest could declare them “clean” restoring that person to their place in the community, restoring their dignity. This is the ministry of Jesus. It is a ministry of reconciliation. Every miracle recorded in the Gospel has the consequence of healing a relationship. I think that is why Mark takes such pains to present to us every possible kind of illness so that eventually we might ask: “What’s really going on here?” If it’s the sick child of a Roman Centurion, that family is restored to wholeness. If it’s the raising of widow’s only son, it is the restoration of that relationship. It’s always about reconciliation. That is the healing miracle that happens again and again as sign that the Kingdom of God has come.
The Jesus of this story is a man of kindness, who respects an outcast. The Jesus of this story reveals the mercy, kindness, and compassion of God who desires his people to be healed where ever there is division and brokenness. It is not healing from a disease that we need. It is acceptance, compassion, and reconciliation that we need, not just with God, but with each other. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if people began to run around and talk openly about how they had been treated by us Catholics: about the kindness, the compassion, and the respect with which we met them day after day? It’s amazing what people can do for others. We are expected to share in the mission of Jesus. We can rekindle hope, and bring back a joy for living. We can restore self-respect and pride in others because we are called to be a mirror of the infinite charity of God.