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The cleansing of a leper

GOSPEL: MARK 1:40-45

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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 le 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.

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In the Old Testament, people often regarded leprosy as a punishment from God for sin. Lepers were always considered unclean and kept away from the community, for fear of contaminating the healthy ones. The lepers, who carried in their bodies the hideous marks of death, were the symbol of impurity and rejection by the Lord.

To the ancients, the world seemed to be divided into two opposing spheres: One occupied by the forces of life, the other in the hands of the powers of death. To the first, God and the pure people belonged; to the second, the idolaters and all that are under the power of sin. The spiritual leaders of Israel have categorized people into the clean and the unclean, the just and the sinners.

The Gospel accounts of Jesus’ encounters with the lepers are a mark of God condescending to the sinful situation of man, in order to cleanse it and restore man’s dignity as a child of God, the condition of the first man, Adam, who lived in Paradise. The message is clear: God chooses to become man, and suffers like man, in order to restore man’s relationship with him. Jesus, the image of the compassionate God, approaches the impure and touches them, because none of God’s creatures is impure, much less his children. Jesus chooses the marginalized, those who are rejected by all. For this reason, he becomes “impure” himself, condemned and executed as a criminal outside the “camp” – the holy city of Jerusalem.

In Misericordiae Vultus (The Face of Mercy), his Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy 2015-2016, Pope Francis writes: “Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy. Jesus of Nazareth, by his words, his actions, and his entire person reveals the mercy of God. We need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy…At times, we are called to gaze even more attentively on mercy so that we may become a more effective sign of the Father’s action in our lives.

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SOURCE: “365 Days with the Lord 2021,” ST. PAULS Philippines, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 895-9701; Fax 8957328; E-mail: [email protected]; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph.

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