The Cleansing of a Leper
In today’s gospel, the leper begs Jesus if He is willing to heal him. Jesus is very much willing to heal him, not from a distance but at a closed range by touching him. The meeting of Jesus and the leper was recounted in all three synoptic gospels (Lk. 5:12-16; Mt. 8:1-4). Biblically as described in the Book of Leviticus (chap.13), leprosy covered a wide range of skin diseases and is not the present-day leprosy. It was the ultimate impurity because it cut the patients from the community and turned the patients into sources of contamination to others. That is why whenever they go out they have to make noise so that people can stay away from them. It is because the Law protects others by segregating lepers from them but the Law cannot clean the leprosy. Only the priest and not the doctor can certify that the patient is free of the disease and allow him/her back into the community after a ritual cleansing process. But Jesus, on the contrary, is not afraid to touch the leper in order to heal him. After healing, although Jesus is higher than the Law, He does not contradict the Law. Instead, He orders the healed man to comply with the law by showing himself to a priest.
From this gospel passage, Jesus teaches us two things. First, He teaches us that it is not enough to love from a distance. There is no such thing as long distance love affair. It is because this will not last long. That is why healing requires involvement not only of money, time, techniques and talent but above all, personal involvement. Healing requires that we touch, make contact and connect flesh to flesh. Those who work for the sick found out that there is real healing power and restoration through human touch or physical contact. It is because we can send a message of reassurance and remaining-with-the-other that dispels feelings of abandonment and rejection.
But there are many times that we want to be at a safe distance; others may pull back or draw too near, emotionally and physically. It is because we are afraid that our touch may be rejected or misunderstood or that we are afraid to be contaminated. But Jesus shows us that His love is not one kilometer away. He goes close to the leper, touches him and says: “I do will it. Be made clean.” It is because for Him, loving from a distance is not enough. He also shows His love by becoming man like us in order to be near to us and live in our midst.
Second, have faith and courage like that of the leper. The leper does not engage in self-pity so Jesus can show true pity and compassion. But because of the bold actions of the leper that make Jesus even bolder in His actions: “Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out His hand, touched him and said, ‘I do will it. Be made clean.'” All of us know the pain of suffering in silence, not wanting to share it with people who are ready to carry out sufferings for us and with us. And the leper shows us that it is not enough and right to keep quiet when we are suffering. He was a person in need and he is not contented to just suffer quietly. He shouts at the Lord in prayer by saying: “If you wish you can make me clean!”
The Lord teaches us today that it is not enough to love from a distance and have faith and courage like that of the leper.
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