Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time – 11 February 2024

In today’s Gospel we read a profoundly moving encounter between Jesus and a leper. This narrative is not just a testament to Jesus’ miraculous power to heal physical ailments but also a profound insight into His deep understanding of human suffering and His approach to healing that goes beyond the physical.

In the reading we witness a leper approaching Jesus, imploring Him for healing. Leprosy in biblical times was not just a physical ailment; it was laden with social and spiritual implications. Lepers were not only shunned by their communities but were also seen as bearers of divine punishment for sin. This man’s illness was a source of profound physical suffering, social isolation, and spiritual despair. The heartbreak accompanying this disease was immense, as it severed individuals from their communities and made them subjects of scorn and fear.

Jesus’ reaction to the leper is deeply telling. He is moved with compassion, understanding the full spectrum of the man’s suffering. This compassion is not just for the physical ailment but for the profound emotional and spiritual pain that comes from being ostracized and labelled as cursed by God. Jesus’ response is holistic – He sees the leper not just as a sick body but as a whole person, crushed under the weight of illness, social rejection, and spiritual anguish.

By reaching out and touching the leper, Jesus does something revolutionary and deeply symbolic. In that society, touching a leper was unthinkable; it rendered one ceremonially unclean. Yet, Jesus’ touch was a powerful statement – He was willing to share in the leper’s social and spiritual alienation to restore him. This action was a radical message of inclusion and acceptance. Jesus was not only healing the man’s physical leprosy but was also restoring his dignity, his sense of belonging, and his spiritual well-being.

When Jesus commands, “be clean,” it is more than a physical healing. It is a restoration of the man’s total identity – his social, emotional, and spiritual life. Jesus gives back to the man what his condition had stolen – his humanity, his place in the community, and his relationship with God. The healing is comprehensive, addressing the deep-seated feelings of being despised and rejected, not just by society but also seemingly by God.

This passage is a vivid reminder that Jesus’ ministry was deeply rooted in compassion and radical inclusion. It challenges us to see beyond the surface, to understand the complex nature of suffering, and to approach others with the same depth of compassion and bold love that Jesus demonstrated.

Fr Stephen Berecz

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