Lv 13:1-2, 44-46
Ps 32: 1-2, 5, 11
1 Cor 10:31-11:1
This Sunday’s Catholic readings affirm of the lordship of Jesus Christ and His divine and redeeming power through His encounter with a man of leprosy. To fully understand and get a grasp of the gospel message and its context, we have to look carefully into the first reading. The first reading takes us to the thirteenth chapter of the book of Leviticus, a book that is essentially a code of law for ancient Jewish practice and customs. The thirteenth chapter talks about customs regarding leprosy. For a Jew, especially in ancient times, leprosy is a mark of the curse of God. A leprous person had to be brought before a high priest. The high priest would usually declare the leprous person unclean who would then had to put garments around him and avoid contact and interaction with others. When walking around the outskirts, that leprous person had to cry out ‘Unclean’ so that others are aware of that person’s presence and avoid contact with him or her. A person leprosy had to be avoided in order for others not to be contaminated with his uncleanliness. By crying out ‘unclean’, that leprous person is basically saying to others to stay away from him for he or she bears the curse of God. In other words, leprous people are widely considered marginalized in Jewish society. In our modern conception, it is like a person, bearing a dangerous, incurable, disease, who must be avoided by all people—even going nearby—lest that disease spread and wipe out all of humanity. Leprosy, in ancient Jewish customs, is essentially experiencing death while alive. It is ultimately a desolating experience.
Now, in the Gospel, this man of leprosy—who is supposed to not approach others, even being approached—approaches Jesus Christ and does not cry out what he was supposed to cry out. Leprous people are not even supposed to utter words other than ‘unclean’. With a compelling faith to the One who was sent, he cried out ‘If you wish, you can make me clean’. And moved with pity and compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and uttered the most consoling words he could ever hear: ‘I do will it. Be made clean.’
Leprosy may not be so prevalent in our times compared to the time our Blessed Lord had lived, but it is a sickness that is still present in our midst. Leprosy is something we can still experience through our sinfulness. Just like the leprous people during the ancient days, we have a tendency to distance ourselves away—distance ourselves away from the Lord, thinking that our sins too enormous to be forgiven. We fail to love Him wholeheartedly time and time again that causes us to say “with how much awful things I have done, I don’t think God can ever forgive me”. Discouragement fills up our heart, and then we start to live in anxiety and hopelessness. Our discouragement and anxiety, as the result of the sins we committed, are the reasons why Jesus came to our world, for the Father so loved the world as what John says in his gospel. He loves us so much that He never wants us to remain in anxiety and discouragement. When comes right near to us, He knows too well the mess in our lives. The leprous man had a mysterious understanding of the very purpose why our Lord is walking on the same ground as Him. The leprous man knew that the Lord was seeking for him and, therefore, dared himself to approach the healer sent from heaven. His faith in Jesus transcended beyond the risks that may come with having contact. Any other person a leprous man ever contacted will also be considered unclean and therefore be also considered an outcast. Our Lord Jesus Christ is willing to go where we put ourselves in. However, the leprous man did not deem Jesus Christ as another human being. The faith of the leprous man allowed him to know Jesus as the Lord who came down to this earth and delivered him from his sickness. Let us have the same faith as the man with leprosy. Jesus is always waiting for us to approach him. He does not want to exercise his full divinity by automatically shedding his saving power to all, for He acknowledges our human free-will. As our divine Lord, Jesus is ready to shed his saving power. But as a human being, Jesus craved a human encounter with us, the same kind of encounter two people have that creates a friendship between them. We can never truly appreciate His saving power without willing ourselves to have an encounter with Him. The lordship of Jesus Christ cannot be fully acknowledge with a desire to have a human relation with Him, a desire the man of leprosy had initially. In times of fear and anxiety, our Lord offers something this world cannot offer.
As we are about to approach Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, let us pray that we may have the faith to say—just as what the Psalms suggest: “I turn to you, Lord, in time of trouble, and you fill me with the joy of salvation.” Any relationship is a two way street. Jesus grants us healing through encounter with him. In return, we eagerly do everything for His glory.