First Reading
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.”

Second Reading
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
Mark 1:40-45

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 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.

Today we are invited to reflect on leprosy and its effects in the life of a sick person. This is one of those diseases that was immensely important in the time of Jesus and even up until fairly recent times. Today, however, this is a disease that can be treated. In the time of Jesus, the only way that people knew how to deal with leprosy was to exile the leper from any normal contact with people, even from his or her own family.

It is practically impossible for us to understand how totally cut off from others a leper would have been. His or her only normal associations would have been with other lepers. And almost any kind of skin disease would have been considered leprosy.

Leprosy becomes a symbol for the effects of sin. Those who choose to live a “life of sin” are cutting themselves off from the human community. This kind of symbol is not as clear today when so many cultural values have changed. It is not very long ago, historically, that a divorced person or a person living with someone else but outside of marriage, would not have been accepted into “polite” society.

Certainly today, in western cultures, almost anything and any one is accepted. There is very little in the way of personal decisions or personal illness that would cut anyone off from others. A few years back, those with AIDS or who were HIV positive were cut off from others, but that is rarely so any more.

To understand the readings for today, we must imagine other situations. Or perhaps it is better to try to understand the previous way of looking at things so that we can understand the readings.

It is important for us to recognize that we can cut ourselves off from others and from the believing community by our choices. Leprosy was not a choice.

We see Jesus healing a leper, showing us that those who are cut off can be brought back into the community once again. The challenge today is for us Christians to show that moral values are still important, but to do so without judging those who do not believe in any moral values. This is so much the challenge of evangelization today: to show that there is truly a wonderful life possible by following the Gospel—a life even better than those who have every possible freedom but have no particular values to live for.
We Christians have so much to offer to the world. We have the great theological virtues of faith, hope and love. We have the gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding , counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, fear of the Lord. We have the capacity to perform the corporal and spiritual works of mercy: to feed the hungry; to give drink to the thirsty; to clothe the naked; to shelter the homeless; to visit the sick; to visit those in prison; to bury the dead; to instruct the ignorant; to counsel the doubtful; to admonish sinners; to bear wrongs patiently; to forgive offences willingly; to comfort the afflicted; to pray for the living and the dead.
As we celebrate this Sunday and ponder on leprosy and the challenge of the values of our times, we can also encourage one another to live our faith strongly and with confidence in our Lord. Let us give thanks for our faith even as we ask the Holy
Spirit to strengthen us in love.