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.

Anyone who has read the life of Saint Damien of Molokai will have a deepened understanding of the awful situation of the leper in society. Even today, where there is medicine to treat the disease, in many countries it is still a cause for social banishment. Mother Marianne Cope, who also worked with the lepers in Molokai will be canonized this year.

Because some illnesses in the past were totally misunderstood, there was need to try to find ways to stop them from spreading. This is the intent of the first reading today. It goes hand in hand with today’s Gospel.

The challenge in most countries today is not physical leprosy as we find it in the Scriptures, but all kinds of moral leprosy. Today so much of our culture does not even understand that it is sick. The lack of moral values is so widespread that it now seems normal. Having any moral values is what now seems abnormal.

Yet even in our own time, some people recognize eventually that their ways of living have harmed them and then they can begin to recover from this lack of morality, this lack of any value system other than pleasure, power and money.

Today second reading, from the First Letter to the Corinthians, tells us: whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. This is a clear and straightforward antidote to the moral sickness of our time.

If we look at the physical illnesses of our own time, there are very few which cause us the fear and uneasiness that leprosy would have caused in the Jewish Scriptures or in the Christian Scriptures. The AIDS Virus is one of the diseases that does cause fear and distress, but mostly in poor countries. In the United States there is now enough treatment for this virus that no one seems to fear it any more—or least the fear is not very large. In many poor countries, however, the HIV virus has effects very similar that of leprosy in the Old and the New Testaments.

One middle-aged man related going to visit his home village after more than 10 years of absence. He found that everyone his own age had died. Most of the people between 20 and 60 had died. The really old were now caring for their grandchildren or great grandchildren because everyone else was dead. It was an enormous shock to this man.

You are I are called by today’s Scripture readings to love all other people, even the lepers and the outcasts. By the way that we live, we must invite others also to begin to love and serve the outcasts. It is not a matter of preaching moral values or of condemning those whose actions have messed up their own lives and often the lives of others. It is a matter of loving such people and serving them—and a matter of us living the values of the Gospel.

May this day bring each of us closer to our Lord in love and in action. May we never fear serving others, no matter how awful the other person may seem or no matter the lack of moral values in the other person. Jesus simply tells us: love your enemy!