1st Reading – Leviticus 13: 1-2, 44-46
Biblical leprosy was any fearful condition that was of unknown origin and could possibly contaminate others. It ran the gamut from acne, psoriasis, boils, ulcers, rashes, even dandruff to serious malignancies. Leprosy was another name for the community’s fear. Lepers were not only sick, but also condemned as sinners. They were called ‘the living dead.’ A healing was considered as difficult as raising the dead to life. (Exploring the Sunday Readings, and Celebration — Feb. 2000)
Have you ever been able to identify with this leper? Perhaps you didn’t have anything visibly embarrassing on your person, but maybe you were self-conscious about something? Or felt the world knew something wrong about you? We sometimes have a little voice inside of us that counts us unworthy, unclean, unlovable. But Jesus saves! We must turn to Jesus’ voice, and He will make us feel worthy, clean and lovable again.
2nd Reading – 1 Corinthians 10: 31- 11: 1
This reading is dealing with the problem of whether it was all right to purchase meat that had been previously sacrificed to idols. Was it okay for Christians to eat this meat? Some thought it was since the idols were not real anyway. Paul is trying to help this community see that while the meat might be fine to eat, one should not cause undue scandal to those who were more scrupulous. Paul is trying to encourage them to follow Jesus’ example by being concerned for the well-being of others. God is glorified when we freely live lives of love and service. We become better and so do others! (Celebration, Feb. 2000, and Mary Birmingham, W & W Year B, 485) Paul more fully comes to explain himself in chapter 13 when he discusses love: “Love is kind. Love is patient. . . . etc.”
Paul has personally experienced the risen Christ; as a result, his life mirrors Christ, who is himself the image of God. Christ has so taken possession of Paul that his own life is now that of Christ. The Christian communities identified with Paul did not have the same experience. His uniqueness as an apostle rested on his direct experience with Jesus. Therefore, he calls on the communities to imitate him as they move toward their sole model, Christ himself, (R Faley’s Footprints on the Mountain, p. 159).
Gerald Fagin SJ says this of glorifying God: The goal or end of life is to praise, reverence, and serve God, and to come to eternal life. All of God’s gifts are means to achieve this goal; we should use them accordingly. “From this it follows that I should use these things to the extent that they help me toward my end, and rid myself of them to the extent that they hinder me.” (Sp. Ex. 23)…it means being so passionately and single-mindedly committed, so completely in love, that we are willing to sacrifice anything, including our lives, for the ultimate goal. It means magnanimous generosity, abandonment into God’s hands, avallability, (Putting on the Heart of Christ, p. 41-43).
The Gospel – Mark 1:40-45
Last week, we learned from Simon Peter’s mother-in-law that when we are touched by Jesus, we must ‘rise up and serve.’ Now we see a leper proclaim freely the good news of salvation (full health and life). We find the love of God in Jesus.
“Moved with pity” – sometimes translated “Moved with anger” – literally this phrase means to have one’s intestines turn over . . .Yet, this leper had dared to ignore the law’s strict rule of quarantine. So did Jesus. The passion and sympathy that moved Jesus from deep within showed how he empathized with this man’s blight. Jesus’ passion for the suffering of others challenges us, his followers, to also be stirred and motivated by similarly powerful mission. Jesus’ was willing to touch so as to comfort and heal, touching even those who were condemned as outcasts. This is an example we, too, must follow. (Celebrations, Feb. 2000, 2003; and Quest, Spring, 2006)
Jesus also spoke sternly toward the man commanding him to tell no one anything, but to see the priest. The literal translation of this is that Jesus ‘snorted’ or ‘puffed’ – a way that was often used to confront evil in his culture. Mark’s messianic secret seems to be an important motif here. Fantastic miracles do not seem to be why Jesus came. He came to break down barriers between the clean and unclean – between the insiders and the outsiders. Eduard Schweizer says that Jesus is horrified at the misery of this man’s condition and isolation for it is contrary to God’s plan for creation. Also, of course, there is irony in the way Mark tells this story for the healed man is so full of good news that he cannot be silent! God’s kingdom is breaking through! It is just too good – too real – to be concealed. Wouldn’t it be a shame if we kept such goodness to ourselves? (R. Fuller, “Scripture in Depth,” http://liturgy.slu.edu; E. Schweizer, The Good News According to Mark, 58-59)
Society tends to exclude people and treat them as social lepers today no less than in the time of Jesus. At that time, justification could be found in the law for a certain measure of separation. While Jesus shows a basic respect for the Mosaic law, he never fails to respect primarily the worth of the human person as transcending every other religious or social consideration. We have many examples of exclusion of people on the basis of nationality, race, gender, sexual orientation, or social class. It is Jesus’ over-riding love for the human person, virtuous or sinful, without qualification, that is his greatest challenge in any age or culture (R Faley’s Footprints on the Mountain, p. 160).