February 11, 2024
A Message from Fr. Quan
“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.”
It is the first recorded account of the healing of a leper in the ministry of Jesus. What is significant is the faith of the leper. He defiled the laid down law of Moses concerning leprosy to meet Jesus. And Jesus defiled the same law to heal him of the disease by touching him. According to the law of Moses as presented in the first reading, a man infected with leprosy must wear his clothing torn and his hair disordered; he must shield his upper lip and cry, ‘Unclean, unclean.’ As long as the disease lasts he must be unclean; and therefore, he must live apart: he must live outside the camp.
One reason Jesus immediately responded to the leper’s cry in the Gospel story, ignoring the Mosaic Law prohibiting touching a leper and thus becoming ritually unclean, is that Jesus identified himself with the man’s condition. Actually, Jesus identified himself with the sufferer in the rejection and isolation waiting for him. Here, Jesus risked becoming “unclean” himself in order to make the leper clean. Just as he stretched out his hand to the leper and touched him and made him whole, Jesus stretched out his hands on the cross to make fallen humanity whole again. He touched the leper to destroy the gap between what is clean and what is unclean, identifying himself with all lepers, with all who are ritually or socially unclean and isolated and with all of us sinners who are spiritually unclean and have no way to change our condition except through His sacrifice and mercy. In the Gospel story, Jesus chose to become “unclean” in the eyes of the law so that He might restore the poor and lost child of Abraham to wholeness. I believe it was certainly the best experience of affection the leper could ever imagine, a sensational touch full of love. I am sure that the least he had long expected was just to have a distant show of affection but no one gave it to him. But here he is having more than what he asked for. Jesus did not only allow him to come close to Him, He touched him. What a gesture of love we have in God!
The leper inspires us to take courage to meet Jesus. There are many people who are longing to come out of sin and return to God, but they lack the faith and courage because of shame and guilts. The message today is heartwarming. The people around us may judge us, condemn us, relegate us and call us all sorts of names. However, we shouldn’t worry so much about what people say. We should rather worry about how to effect change in our lives.
We confidently come to God to be healed, transformed, changed because our God does not hide away from us. He is always with us. St. Mark says that the leper ran to Jesus. This is a way of expressing the effort that is expected of man in response to the salvation that God offers. As St. Augustine says: “The God who created us without us cannot save us without us,” God needs us to save us. The effort of the leper shows that no one encounters God in the hiding. God can only be met through a spiritual journey. The important message of Mark in the Gospel story is the divine touch the leper received from Jesus. This is because the image Jesus saw in the sick man was not that of an outcast, rather he saw one who was in need and precious to his heart. Pope Benedict states, “That gesture and those words of Christ contain the whole history of salvation, they embody God’s will to heal us, to purify us from the illness that disfigures us and ruins our relationships. In that contact between Jesus’ hand and the leper, every barrier between God and human impurity, between the Sacred and its opposite, was pulled down.”