for Sunday, February 11, 2018
Leprosy! Even today the very word "leprosy" has a harsh and intimidating sound to it. Today we have a treatment for leprosy but nevertheless there are about 200,000 new cases a year - although that number is slowly declining. But in the time of Leviticus and in the time of Jesus Christ, there was no known treatment. Because the causes of the disease were not know, the person was exiled from "healthy" human society. No one would want to be a leper, cut off from one's own family and friends and spurned by everyone because of fear of contagion.
In the Scriptures, leprosy becomes a symbol of sin. We can even speak of the "leprosy of sin." We can understand this also because sin is seen but why people sin is not so clear. There is something broken in our human nature and, as Saint Paul says, we sin even when we try not to sin.
The first reading today is from the Book of Leviticus, which is one of the early books of Hebrew Scripture, one of the early books of our Christian Bible. Chapters 12 to 15 deal with various illnesses and why some illnesses require the person to live apart, primarily in order not to infect others. We can well imagine, however, that if a person were able to hid some kind of infection, they would do so in order to avoid expulsion from the community.
The second reading is from the First Letter to the Corinthians. The strong teaching in this small except is that we should try to avoid giving offense to others and should try to please everyone. That is a tall order but we can understand that Christians are called to love everyone and to serve everyone and to put one's own needs behind the needs of others. This could sound like a commandment just to be nice. Instead Saint Paul thinks of it as a way to bring salvation to others. We are all missionaries and must think about how we can draw others to Christ Jesus.
The Gospel from Mark today brings us back to leprosy. The leper in today's Gospel wants to be cured. His faith that Jesus can cure him is so strong that Jesus tells him: "Be made clean." And the leprosy leaves him. Even though Jesus asks the leper to be silent about this cure, the leper cannot keep his mouth shut. The leper proclaims to everyone that he has been cured by Jesus.
Sin is seen in the early Church as a form of moral leprosy. We are invited by Jesus to become clean in baptism. The early Church had a huge struggle to come to understand how anyone baptized could return to sin. But sin is like leprosy and returns over and over until there is a completely cure. The cure for spiritual leprosy is faith in Jesus Christ.
Today on this Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time, we can ask ourselves: Do I really want to be free of sin? Am I willing to call out to the Lord and ask the Lord to heal me? Am I willing to proclaim the glory of God?
Readings of the day:
First Reading: Leviticus 13.1-2, 45-46
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 10.31 - 11.1
Gospel: Mark 1.40-45
Reflections are available for the following Sundays: