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The cleansing of a leper

A leper came to Jesus and 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 do will it. Be made clean.” The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean. Then, warning him sternly, he dismissed him at once.

He said to him, “See that you tell no one anything, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them.”

The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter. He spread the report abroad so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly. He remained outside in deserted places, and people kept coming to him from everywhere.

While modern science and medicine have conquered the scourge, in Jesus’ time leprosy is not only a dreaded physical condition but also a social cancer. Lepers are banished from family and community; they have to “announce” their condition if they must come near healthy people. The physical disfigurement and the social exclusion rob lepers of their human dignity.

Thus, the healing that Jesus effects on the leper in the Gospel must be good news not just for the person but also for his family, friends, and community. This man is given back his dignity and can start life anew.

Noteworthy is the extraordinary courage the person shows in approaching Jesus. He kneels before him and pleads with all trust and faith, saying that if Jesus wills, he can cure him. And Jesus, moved with compassion and mercy, does exactly what the leper asks for. Thus, in the meeting of “horizons” and desires—the leper’s courage and confidence in the power of Jesus encountering Jesus’ compassionate desire to liberate the person from his deplorable condition – the wondrous cleansing happens. Yet, it is not as if Jesus works only when we kneel before him; Jesus always desires to save everyone in need.

While it may be medically addressed in our days, leprosy has emerged in other forms, as in discrimination, exclusion, bullying, bashing, and shaming – reducing many people to agony and despair. We respond to various difficulties and challenges but create at the same time other destructive systems and practices.

Still, we remain grateful for people genuinely concerned with saving lives and finding possibilities for peace and communion. In hospitals, dedicated doctors, nurses, aides, attendants, and caregivers facilitate healing and wellness in people. Some others engage in dialogue and cultural exchange so that hatred, exclusion, violence, and division may be eliminated and avoided. These people mirror Jesus’ merciful compassion and constant desire to heal and save.

May we all do our part, wherever we are, to continue Jesus’ ministry of healing and compassion in our world.