Our first reading this weekend is super important. Because it gives us the proper context to understand what our Gospel is saying to all of us here today. The reading from Leviticus does not seem very uplifting. It’s all about those who have leprosy and how they are to live. One who has been unfortunate enough to contract leprosy is supposed to tear their garments, declare himself “unclean!”, and shall dwell apart from the community. This does not sound very inspiring. Nor does it sound like a Christian way of living. “Those people” must live separate from us.
The early church commentators saw leprosy as an analogy to sin. Leprosy is a great sickness. It’s contagious. It separates us from our neighbor. It can kill you. Sin is a great sickness. It is contagious! It separates us from another – causes division. Leprosy represents physically, what sin does to us spiritually.
Ok, now let’s listen to our Gospel with the first reading in mind. A leper came to Jesus… Ok, so what’s strange about that? Everything! Our first reading explained to us that those with leprosy are to dwell apart and declare themselves unclean. So those with leprosy should never approach someone who is clean. But we have a leper who goes to Jesus despite the social demands of his time.
This Gospel is important for every one of us here. Because the leper does something that can be so difficult for us to do. He goes to Jesus. In the midst of his sickness, and with great trust, he goes to Jesus to be healed. Friends, we are all sick. All of us here have things in our life that have caused us shame. All of us here have our own struggle with sin. All of us here have wounds in our hearts from experiences of others in our lives who have hurt us. So, brothers and sisters, all of us here are in fact like the leper. All of us need healing.
But the problem is, imitating the Leper in our Gospel is so hard. I think of St. Peter when he was initially called by Jesus, and what does he say? Peter seeing this great man, is not moved to follow him, rather he wants to hide behind his shame. He says Lord depart from me for I am a sinful man! Or, think about what we say at Mass every Sunday. The priest elevates the host and says, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” And we all respond: Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof. Or I think of my own experience, which I know many here can relate with, the fear and anxiety of going to reconciliation to experience Christ’s healing mercy. We can believe that our sins are so bad, or fill us with so much shame, that God could not possibly forgive us. So what do we do? We echo St. Peter, Depart from us Lord, for we are a sinful people! We try to keep our distance from God…
Friends, here is the reality, God doesn’t want there to be a distance between us. That is why God became one of us. The Gospel of Mark is filled with these stories of Jesus closeness to his people. We are his people! Christ desires to bring His healing love into our lives. Our challenge is to respond like the Leper. We are to go out and meet Christ and allow him to heal us. This is what we are praying for when we say, Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only the say the word and my soul shall be healed. “I do will it,” says Christ, “be healed.”
In Christ’s love and friendship,