Perfect Gospel Story for Today's World
Today we have another extraordinary opportunity to learn more about the man Jesus and his ministry in serving a segment of his society that were shunned by their communities because of the contagious disease of leprosy. We look at the Son of Man showing not just his pity but his compassion. Jesus makes clear that these victims of a terrible disease are also the victims of another disease imposed on them by their forced ostracism from the people they have known and perhaps have even brought into this world. There was in the communities tremendous fear and contempt towards the victims of leprosy.
It has been noted that medicine was in a primitive stage of development when Jesus was preaching and teaching. Some people were labeled as "unclean" simply by the lack of sound medical knowledge. Unfortunately when that happens, as we witnessed in our own time when HIV/AIDS was discovered. Fear and contempt branded these victims as "unclean" and as not safe to be with especially in restaurants and at home dinner tables. We did not know enough about the disease when it was first named. As a result many suffered a double or even triple dose of rejection in our communities.
Jesus was moved by the leper who came to him not with just a disease but with great faith and trust in Jesus and the words the leper must have heard. We don't know exactly why because we never know exactly how the Holy Spirit works in the hearts and minds of others. It is hard enough to discern the Spirit in our own lives at times.
Jesus did what only a minimal few might do: he touched the man who asked for healing. His compassion for the man was so genuine. The very touch of Jesus must have been a healing moment for this trusting and hoping victim. Once cured the man is given a charge by Jesus. Go and tell the priests of your healing. Show yourself to them. This was vitally important in Jesus' society. Why? Because the priest was the one who was chosen to validate the renewed health of the victim and to assure the communities that it was not safe for the cured victim to associate within the community.
The wonderful part of this gospel event is that the man was so excited by his cure, as would anyone with such a terrible disease, that he could not keep the last charge Jesus gave him: don't say anything about this. How could the man contain his relief, his excitement, his happiness. As one commentator on this gospel wrote: "It is often in our crosses that grace appears."
This gospel story today of course directs our attention to those who suffer as lepers in our communities. There are many. Of course we live in an era of terribly physical and psychological kinds of leprosy. Some of these diseases build walls of isolation around the victims where even families, friends and others in the community reject being present with them.
Consider the marginalized members of our communities around the world and in our nation: drug addicts, poor single mothers, those who have lost their homes or who never could say I have had a roof over my head. Think about the single Moms or single Dads who struggle in poverty with their one prized possession ... their child or children. We have all know alcoholics who are so quickly rejected by others.
Our challenge today is this: consider carefully and slowly the compassion and pity that Jesus teaches us. Do you build such a wall around any person or persons you know or know about because society has judged them "unclean" or not fit to be a part of "their society"? Take the often misused question and take it to heart: "What would Jesus do in this circumstance?"