Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Mk 1:40-45
40 A man suffering from a dreaded skin disease came to Jesus, knelt down, and begged him for help. “If you want to,” he said, “you can make me clean.”
41 Jesus was filled with pity, and reached out and touched him. “I do want to,” he answered. “Be clean!”
42 At once the disease left the man, and he was clean.
43 Then Jesus spoke sternly to him and sent him away at once,
44 after saying to him, “Listen, don’t tell anyone about this. But go straight to the priest and let him examine you; then in order to prove to everyone that you are cured, offer the sacrifice that Moses ordered.”
45 But the man went away and began to spread the news everywhere. Indeed, he talked so much that Jesus could not go into a town publicly. Instead, he stayed out in lonely places, and people came to him from everywhere.
Other readings: Job 7:1-4, 6-7; Psalm 147:1-6; 1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23
Leprosy is curable today. But in Jesus’s day there was no medicine and no cure. Leprosy brought with it a life sentence for the sufferer. Anyone appearing to have leprosy was considered infectious and cast out from family, friends, home and work. They were obliged to live in isolated places, and this social problem caused great suffering for the lepers and their families.
People with this serious skin disease could no longer participate in religious activities at the temple or synagogue because they were ritually unclean. Effectively you were dead to your family and society. Only the priest’s declaration of freedom from disease opened the door back into the community.
We do not know whether Jesus went to this man on purpose; it would appear that they were alone when they met. The leper made a touching plea and an act of faith: “You can heal me if you want.”
Jesus didn’t hesitate. He touched him and said: “Be clean.” Instantly the man was cured. As a pious Jew, Jesus told the man to do what the Law of Moses required in such circumstances, to go and see the priest (Leviticus 14:2-32). He also told him not to tell anyone about his healing.
But the leper could not contain himself. He disregarded what Jesus said and told everyone about his healing. As a result the crowds sought Jesus to such an extent that he could no longer enter a town publicly. He had to stay out in the countryside.
The man had faith, was miraculously healed but then disobeyed Jesus. Why do you think he did that?
Jesus has a message for the leper and for us here: what do you think it is?
Everything about the leper revealed him as an outcast. He even had to shout “Unclean!” if other people were around. How do you respond to those who are considered “outcasts” in your church or town?
The leper wasn’t afraid to ask for what seemed impossible. Faith moved him towards Jesus. Luke 1:37 says “there is nothing that God cannot do”. Repeat this phrase to yourself several times. Ask God to increase your faith in him. Jesus was moved with pity and it caused him to act. Ask God to show you how to respond to those in need.
The first reading spells out the law about skin diseases (Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46). The future for those with “a dreaded skin disease” was very bleak. Faith with action led this man to reach out to Jesus with a simple prayer. How do you put your faith into action?
In the second reading (1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1) Paul encourages us to model ourselves on Jesus. This means thinking about others with different beliefs so they too can encounter Jesus.
Lectio Divina is an ancient tradition of reading and engaging with God’s Word
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