By Fr. Pako Gabriel Rantutu from Botswana
In today’s gospel, we continue to hear Mark’s reports of Jesus’ miraculous works of healing in the region of Galilee. Today he heals a man with leprosy. Leprosy is a disfiguring, infectious skin disease that has been surrounded by many social and religious taboos throughout history. In the time of Jesus when someone was diagnosed with leprosy the person was declared unclean. The belief was that it was due to sin, hence a curse from God. So, people with leprosy lived in isolation from their families and community. They were instructed to rip their clothes and stay without bathing. No one cared about them nor showed them love. Leprosy robed a person his dignity/value.
The man in gospel reading had physical leprosy. We Christians suffer from different spiritual leprosies due to sin and sin subjects us to loneliness and with loneliness there is utter misery. There is no worse leprosy than sin; sin not only disfigures our soul beyond recognition, it isolates us both from God and our brothers and sisters in the faith.
The dialogue between Jesus and the Leper is moving and it bears a great lesson for us. We feel the anxiety of the poor leper tired of suffering; his humility and faith in Jesus is astonishing. Jesus was his only hope. That is why he dared to break the rules that forbade him to come closer to people. Like the leper in the gospel, we too should come to Jesus with humility and faith as soon as we realise our weaknesses or sinfulness which isolate/separate us from God and the life of Grace. Most of the time we are afraid to come forward and we do not want to swallow our pride and let go instead we choose to be comfortable with our sins/leprosies. Without us acknowledging our shortcoming and taking a step, we shall not receive healing.
Feeling sorry for him, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him (v 41). By that action Jesus was breaking the law. No Jew would have ever touched a leper because a mere touch rendered him legally impure. The touch that is expected to make Jesus unclean brings healing and restoration to the unclean man instead. This is a lesson to us that Jesus’ power is above any form of illness or evil. Our spiritual leprosies of un-forgiveness, jealousy, hatred, envy, infidelity can be healed by Jesus. We only have to take a step towards him with firm faith and trust.
Another lesson we get from Jesus in his interaction with a leper is that we should accept and show care to the sick, sinners and the marginalized. We must make them feel the warmth of our love. This is the best way of bringing them back to life.
Finally, Mark’s messianic secrecy continues in today’s episode. Last Sunday he did not allow the evil spirit to reveal who he is. Today he orders the cured man not to tell anyone that he was healed by him. Jesus was quite aware that if his identity was to be known his mission was going to be endangered in those times of political instability. The man out of joy could not resist sharing the good news, he immediately began announcing his experience with Jesus.