6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46
1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1
February 15, 2015
Jesus continues to heal people. Today it is a leper. Jesus heals lots of people and most of them we are never told what their illness is. Today we are told it is leprosy. Why do the gospel writers take the time to specify leprosy?
Leprosy certainly was a terrible disease. Many who got the disease were never cured and it was a very contagious disease. Anyone with the disease had to be isolated for the safety of others. So, it could mean a lifetime of isolation.
The leper would have violated the rules by going near any person but here he goes right up to Jesus and kneels before Him and begs Jesus to make him clean.
What is Jesus’ response? The expected response would have been to shun the man away. Jesus does not. In fact, He touches the man. For touching the man, Jesus would have become unclean himself.
Why does Jesus touch the man? Jesus heals some people without ever going near them. Won’t leprosy be a perfect reason to heal a person without going near them so you didn’t catch it yourself?
The touch is important. This man would have been isolated from everyone including family and friends. He would have been all alone. Jesus’ touch was a touch of love and compassion. I would imagine it was a powerful sign to the leper of Jesus’ love.
Generally, we don’t have people today get diseases like leprosy as it is described in the Bible. Now, there are illnesses where people are isolated but generally it is for a few days at most and it is medically appropriate to do so.
However, when we think about what it means to live in isolation we should look beyond medical illnesses and think about other people that we, perhaps without ever meaning it, put into isolation or shun them.
How about the homeless? When you see the person that looks unclean holding a sign asking for help do you go out of your way to avoid them? Do you ignore them? Or do you say a prayer for them? Do you do anything to help them?
How about illegal immigrants? Do you see them as lawbreakers to be removed or do you see them as people in desperate situations?
How about the mentally ill? Do you avoid them just because you don’t know what to do for them? Here is an area that I struggle with because I don’t know what to do to help them. I have to realize that I don’t have the gifts to help everyone but I can’t use that as an excuse to shun them. Even when we don’t have the gifts to help, we should not shun them. We should love them and pray for them.
How about parolees? Here can be a difficult one. We have every right to protect ourselves but how do we protect ourselves and still the person a chance to become a better person?
I remember a few years ago the true story of a man who had been in prison for a long time. When he got out he didn’t have much in the way of job skills. People won’t hire him because of his criminal record. Finding a place to live was difficult at best. He seemed to be in a desperate situation just to get by, let alone become a good person.
What did he do? Honestly, he went into a bank and told the teller he was there to rob it and then waited for the police to come.
He didn’t see any other option. In prison he had a bed to sleep in. He didn’t have to worry about how to get food. He was safe.
We need to protect ourselves but how do we do this and give people the help they need, the help they deserve as God’s children?
That’s what Jesus would do.
Lent starts on Wednesday. We will fast and abstain from meat. We will give up something. Maybe we should take some time to think about how we act to others. Who do you shun?