We cannot imagine what leprosy means. Today we know that it is not contagious, at least as much as was believed in ancient times. What was believed in the book of Leviticus leprosy, in our time are understood as other minor and temporary conditions which, in many cases, can be cured. In any case, health conscience advised that the sick person leave the group, and this social marginalization also included religious marginalization: the sick person was declared impure. He was deprived of salvation, because the illness was caused by some fault, and this meant that the sick person was a sinner.
Before continuing, it is worth remembering that Jesus is a person who does not consider anyone impure or lost, because everyone is a child of God. What’s more, the marginalized are Jesus’ favorites, even considering themselves impure. He too, at the appropriate time, will die on a cross outside the city, like the one suffering from the plague.
In fact, illness has always involved some degree of marginalization. Even a minor illness like the flu can take us “out of the war.” It prevents us from working, makes us weak and dependent and reduces our freedom. It is true that, thank God, diseases are no longer considered a curse or divine punishment. But they confront us with our weaknesses and the frailties of life. The recent Covid pandemic has reminded all of humanity of this. The sick person, whether physically or mentally, through his own fault or the fault of others, or by pure chance, is a person who is marginalized and who has to ask, even beg, to survive. We can all recognize this state of need.
Pablo reminds us of a reality that, sometimes, is forgotten by the competitive and successful society in which we live. We should not always do everything within our power (Romans 15:1). Sometimes, because of love, we have to stop exercising our rights. Bear the burden of the weak.
Paul wants to close the debate about whether it is lawful to eat meat sacrificed to idols. It was observed that, as now, there were different sensitivities. For some it was just meat; For others it was blasphemy. Paul understood that this question could cause division in the budding church. That is why he appeals to conscience, so that they may imitate him, who “To please everyone in everything, and not to seek your own interests, but to seek the interests of the many, so that they may be saved., In other words, laugh with those who laugh, cry with those who cry, always be mindful of proclaiming the Word and leave things that are less important in the background. If anyone can eat that meat, let him eat it. But if it can cause disrepute to others, then it is better to stay away from it.
The kingdom of God has indeed come for the leper of the gospel. Jesus not only talks to him, but also touches his skin to heal him. This not only restores his physical integrity, but returns him to the heart of the community. At the cost of desecrating oneself, according to Jewish law. In this way, it purifies what is impure, and declares that there is nothing that can separate us from God if we are able to place ourselves in His hands and pray to Him.
Perhaps it is surprising that Jesus, after breaking the law of impurity, touching the leper, tells him to follow the prescriptions of the same law. Also, he tells her not to talk to anyone, while it is clear that such luxurious treatment cannot be kept a secret. Before Easter, Jesus does not want to be considered the “Messiah”. It must increasingly be revealed how God frees us from death. Till then we had to go little by little. So why are you asking him to introduce you to representatives of the law? Jesus probably wanted the priests to know that a great prophet had been born in Israel. That the kingdom of God has appeared in this world. In return, the recovered sick person has the opportunity to testify about his healing.
In considering the leper who begs for healing, we can take a look at our world and ourselves. Today leprosy is not a worrying disease, but there are other forms of leprosy, physical, moral, ideological, spiritual…, which marginalize us and also cause pain, separate us from others. Who are the lepers in our society? What are my own lepers? Like St. Francis of Assisi, perhaps we need a brush with one of those lepers to change the way we see things.
Can we feel sorry for the sufferings of others, show sympathy? We can have varying degrees of compassion; Some events affect us more than others. Jesus’ example reminds us that compassion is good, but it is not enough. It should inspire us to action, to get our hands dirty, to cross those boundaries and, like St. Francis, to have the courage to kiss the leper. In other words, do good out of love for your neighbor. Asking nothing in return, only that God be known, loved and served by all.
And I myself, like the brave leper in the Gospel, have the courage to recognize my need, my “leprosy,” to beg Jesus to touch me and heal me. Tell Jesus “If you want”, with the awareness that this means “I know you can”. Of course it can happen. To do this, we have to get closer, as they say, “get within reach”, so that he can touch us. In prayer, in the Eucharist, in communion, in the daily reading of His Word… and, after feeling well, like Peter’s mother-in-law, with a grateful heart, in a spirit of service, saying out loud Everyone knows what Christ has done for us.