FEBRUARY 14, 2021 – 6TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Fr. Manoling Thomas, CSsR
Click here for the readings (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/021421.cfm)
A Norwegian scientist by the name of Gerhard Hansen discovered the biomedical cause of leprosy in 1868. The first effective treatment became available only in the 1940s. The vaccine against leprosy was developed by the scientist and doctor, Jacinto Convit of Venezuela. Today leprosy is curable!
With this development in the field of medicine and science, many biblical scholars are now quite sure that what the Bible calls “leprosy” in the Book of Leviticus chapters 13-14 and in our Gospel today is not exactly the same “leprosy” that we now know of! Leviticus describes this “leprosy” as “repulsive, scaly condition” similar to a skin disease we call “psoriasis”. But whether it is “leprosy” or “psoriasis”, surely none of us would like to be infected with either of those diseases.
The divine command to “be holy as the Lord your God is holy” [Lev. 19:2] was interpreted and understood that “holiness” encompass many qualities, not the least important of which was bodily wholeness and integrity! Therefore those physically imperfect e.g. the blind, the lame, the hunchback… [Lev. 21:16-20], were not allowed to approach the Lord. Those afflicted with “biblical leprosy” were isolated and required to live outside “the camp” [13:46].
In Jesus’ time to be infected with “biblical leprosy” was like being condemned and sentenced to a “living death.” Although still physically alive, yet one was physically isolated, separated, and cut off from one’s loved ones and from the mainstream of society. The leper had to say good-bye to home, the family and friends, and even to the place where one used to live. They had to accept and be ready for rejection and judgment from the rest of society. Lepers were thought of by many as cursed by God. Religiously and spiritually, a leper was considered “unclean” and therefore not worthy to join the community in their religious worship. One would need the written clearance from the religious authorities and had to make the religious offering commanded by Moses, before that leper was allowed to re-integrate with one’s family and community. In today’s Gospel Jesus ordered the leper he cured, to fulfill these requirements so that he could rejoin his family and his community. [Mk. 1:44].
To be infected with “leprosy” in Jesus’ time was like dealing with a “dark, scary, painful or embarrassing” area in one’s life! This “dark, scary, painful or embarrassing” area can be in the form of one’s struggle with various forms of addiction, or painful trauma from which we feel helpless to get out of! But we have to be freed from it, if we are to experience real peace, total healing, wholeness, and reconciliation in our lives. We have to courageously face and confront that “dark, scary, painful and embarrassing” area. And that is not easy! It was said that one time, after St. Francis of Assisi decided to embrace a leper, he remarked: “What before seemed bitter was changed into sweetness of soul and body.” What you thought of to be a dreadful and a painful confrontation with your “dark and scary past” can end with a sweet and liberating experience!
The leper took the risk of approaching Jesus and of begging him that he be cleansed! Jesus’ compassion for the leper moved Jesus to violate two important prohibitions in the Law: to allow the leper to approach him, and to touch the leper! Both Jesus and the leper took risks so that real healing, wholeness and freedom would take place! The leper had faith in the power of Jesus! The leper’s faith and Jesus’ compassion enabled the leper to leave the “dark area” of his life and to move on! Would you also like to give Jesus a try?