Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46
The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “If someone has on his skin a scab or pustule or blotch which appears to be the sore of leprosy, he shall be brought to Aaron, the priest, or to one of the priests among his descendants. If the man is leprous and unclean, the priest shall declare him unclean by reason of the sore on his head. “The one who bears the sore of leprosy shall keep his garments rent and his head bare, and shall muffle his beard; he shall cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean!’ As long as the sore is on him he shall declare himself unclean, since he is in fact unclean. He shall dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp.”
1 Corinthians 10:31—11:1
Brothers and sisters, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. Avoid giving offense, whether to the Jews or Greeks or the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in every way, not seeking my own benefit but that of the many, that they may be saved. Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.
Gospel Cycle Cycle B
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 left him immediately, and he was made clean. Then, warning the 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.
Leprosy was a terrible disease! It just kept eating the person up and the person was exiled from his or her family and from the whole community. Throughout the whole of the Hebrew Scriptures and in the Christian New Testament, we find a consistent understanding of leprosy as an image of what sin does to us as human beings. Over and over we are asked to understand that there is physical leprosy and there is spiritual leprosy.
If we look at the tradition, we also find a clear teaching that we need not fear the disease of the body—even though in this life it cuts us off from all those we love. But we must fear totally the diseases of the inner spirit because that touches the very depths of our lives—not only in God but with all other beings.
Today we have the teaching from Leviticus about the person who has physical leprosy. At that time, almost any kind of persistent sore on the skin might have been seen as leprosy. The great fear, of course, was that a leper would infect the whole community and cause more and more damage.
We can see how easily this image can be used for sin! Sin in one person can very easily spread to others. And the whole community can become infected. The modern social sciences can document these kinds of things, where whole communities become influenced by one person. That person, of course, can push the community to good or to evil. When that person pushes towards evil, it is a kind of leprosy affecting all who belong to the community.
Every Sunday, when we listen to the readings, we can ask ourselves questions coming from the readings. Today we might ask: am I a leper? Do I infect others with sin? Most of us have to answer: yes! But we can keep striving to allow Jesus to heal us, and that is what the Gospel today is about.
The leper in the Gospel knows that Jesus can heal him. Do I know that Jesus can heal my sins? My spiritual leprosy? Do I even ask Jesus to help me? To heal me? To make me alive in Him?
This leper in the Gospel was healed so miraculously that he could only go around telling others about it, because it touched him so deeply and to personally. Because so many of us do not even begin to recognize the hideousness of sin, we seem almost uncaring about whether it can be forgiven or now.
Today, in many countries, there is a huge crisis in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. People just do not want to confess their sins. Some of this reaction comes from the way that many of us Catholics experienced this Sacrament before Vatican Council II. Many of us never found the compassion of Christ in the Sacrament. Instead we encountered, as times, the shortcomings of the priest, the institutional aspect of the Sacrament or worse.
Like many experiences, when they are negative, there is a tendency to just the whole reality as a loss, instead of looking for the really wonderful gift of the presence of Christ in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Perhaps today as we hear these stories about lepers, we can look once again at our own relationship to sin and to Jesus, who can heal our sins. We can acknowledge that we do not have enough power of our own to win against sin. And we can turn to the Lord and ask for healing. May that healing make us so aware of the divine in our lives that we want to shout to the whole world: Jesus is Lord! He heals us if we trust in Him.