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Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)

Gospel- Mark 1:40-45

A leper came to Jesus, and upon kneeling down, begged him and said, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, “I will do it. Be made clean” (Mark 1:40–41).

In the Old Testament, Leviticus 14, God gave Moses a purification rite to be used for those who were cured of leprosy. This detailed rite that spanned several days was used to reintegrate a healed leper back into society. After Jesus healed the leper in today’s Gospel passage, He ordered him to “go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them.” Thus, Jesus not only healed the man but instructed him that he was ready to be restored to the community.

At that time, leprosy was a horrible disease, not only for its physical effects, but also because the leper was not permitted to be a part of the society. This was because leprosy was quite contagious. By keeping those infected separate, the disease did not spread as easily to others.

As we ponder this healing, try to imagine not only the pain caused by the leper’s disease, but especially the pain caused by his isolation. Obviously, there were no phones at that time, no video chatting, and no means of communication from a distance. Therefore, isolation would have meant a complete loss of the person’s relationship with his family and friends, as well as his former livelihood, home and all that was a part of his life.

On a spiritual level, the various illnesses that Jesus cured are, in part, to be seen as symbols of sin. In the case of leprosy, we should see this illness as a symbol of the effects of mortal sin. And mortal sin, unless it is cured by God’s forgiveness, has the effect of completely isolating a person from the life of grace. One becomes cut off from a relationship with God, as well as every other relationship that is centered in Christ. When one commits mortal sin and remains in that sin, that person is not capable of true love, since all grace is gone from their life. Therefore, their relationships become self-centered, demanding and unholy.

For those who have fallen into mortal sin, this leper is a symbol of the way out. First, he came to Jesus and knelt down before Him. He humbled himself before our Lord, acknowledging that Jesus was the answer to his ailment. He then begged Jesus for help. But the way he begged Jesus is also revealing.: he did not demand a healing but instead simply professed his faith in the fact that Jesus could heal him. And then he knelt there in trust and hope. This leper teaches us the perfect way to approach our Lord when we struggle with serious sin.

Reflect, today, upon this leper. Try to understand his isolation and loss. Try to understand his humility and faith. And seek to imitate the way that he comes to our Lord. Do not be afraid to humble yourself before God as you acknowledge the sins and other needs you have. Profess your faith in His almighty power and love, and place yourself into His hands of merciful love. He will not let you down.

Most merciful Lord, You desire all of Your children to be healed of the many sins that keep them from communion with You and with Your people. Please give me the faith and trust I need to always be able to humble myself before You so as to receive the restoration to Your grace I so desire. Jesus, I trust in You.

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