Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lev. 13:1-2, 45-46; 1Cor.10:31;11:1; Mk. 1:40-45 “If you will, you can make me clean”
In today’s gospel reading, we are given another glimpse into Jesus’ healing ministry.
In this account from Mark, Jesus is approached by a man who is a leper. This disease was a terrible one and the first reading from Leviticus gives the protocol for those afflicted. Since there was no known treatment or cure, those identified as having the disease were exiled from the community both physically and spiritually, and treated as outcasts. Only a priest could certify them cured. To make their suffering worse, lepers were not only separated from their families, the community and the temple, but also blamed for incurring the disease.
Over the past few years, we have seen the effects of separation on families and individuals. Children, who were brought the United States by parents seeking asylum, were separated and their parents deported. The whereabouts of hundreds of these children is still unknown because their records have been destroyed . Meanwhile both children and families continue to suffer the pain of separation.
The leper in today’s gospel must have decided he could endure separation no longer.
He takes a risk and asks Jesus for healing. Unsure of how Jesus will respond, he gives him an out, “If you will, he says, “you can make me clean.” Jesus answers immediately, “I will”, and reaches out to touch and heal the man. In doing that, He renders himself unclean according to Jewish law.
Jesus asks the man to tell no one what has happened but to follow the protocol and go to the priest and make the prescribed offering. The priest will have the proof he needs to declare him cured. Rejoicing that his separation has ended, the man cannot keep quiet. He tells everyone what Jesus has done for him. As a result, Jesus is besieged and has to leave the area.
Much of what we have witnessed or personally experienced this past year: quarantine, illness, death of so many infected by COVID, loss of jobs and businesses, the treatment given to asylum seekers, new awareness of the deeply ingrained racism in our country, protests, both peaceful and violent, and the misinformation, anger, and rioting surrounding the election process have all served to separate us physically and/or philosophically and cries out for healing.
As we prepare to begin Lent on Wednesday, this gospel story can be a good catalyst for reflection on what in us is in need of healing. It may be anger toward protesters, or anger toward those who are different, or with opposite political or religious beliefs. It may be an unhealthy behavior or addiction. Whatever it is, Jesus desires us to be healed and live in unity and peace with one another.
If you too have that desire, approach Jesus as did the leper and ask for healing for yourself and for our country. You can participate in your own healing by listening to those you disagree with and being open to forgive them. Just as he was willing to heal the leper, Jesus is willing to heal us.
The question is, are you, are we, willing to cooperate in that healing?
Take some time this week to think about that.
Sr. Michaela Connolly, OP