“And a leper came to him (Jesus) beseeching him, and kneeling said to him, ‘If you will, you can make me clean.’ Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I will; be clean.’” Mark 1:40-41)
Last Sunday, Jesus followed Peter and Andrew home where He healed Peter’s mother-in-law of her fever. As soon as she became well, she got up and served at the table. Today, we are presented with another healing episode of Jesus; the Leper who (like Peter’s mother-in-law) became an evangelist afterwards contributing his own part to the Kingdom of God. Has God ever done something good for you? What are you giving in return? With this in mind, let us now examine our lessons for today:
1. Sin, like Leprosy is Deadly and Highly Contagious.
Looking at today’s first reading, one may ask, why did God have to give such stringent laws regarding leprosy? As God told Moses and Aaron, the leper must be declared unclean, wear torn clothes, let his hair loose, cover his upper lips and cry ‘unclean’, ‘unclean.’ Wasn’t this quite harsh? Well, the truth is that given the medical knowledge available at that time, leprosy was considered an incurable disease.
Secondly, it was discovered that leprosy, was highly contagious spreading like wildfire from person to person through physical contact. To save the community, the leper had to be put out of the camp. From a spiritual perspective, we may define leprosy as sin given that it is not only deadly but also highly contagious.
Knowing how sin spreads, Jesus himself warned: “Temptations to sin are sure to come; but woe to him by whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea, than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.” (Luke 17:1-2, Cf. Matthew 18:6-7). This is exactly what St. Paul teaches us in our second reading: Avoid Scandal. You may not see anything wrong with eating meat sacrificed to idols but if doing so will scandalize neophytes in the faith, why should you?
This does not mean that we should simply ostracise sin (keep our evil deeds away from the knowledge of others), it means we should strive to avoid sin at all cost as Jesus said: “Nothing is hid that shall not be made manifest, nor anything secret that shall not be known and come to light.” (Luke 8:17). Truly, the best way to hide or ostracize a sinful deed is never to do it at all in the first place. We must never forget that we are social creatures. Our people say, when one finger touches oil, it spreads to the others. Whatever we do or refuse to do, we must ensure it is for the glory of God.
2. Are You Presently Stuck in Sin? Then follow the Leper’s Steps to Freedom.
Having established that sin is like leprosy that affects our souls and gradually destroys our lives, the question is: “Is there any way out?” This is the Good News contained in our Gospel passage today: that no matter how bad our condition is, no matter how deep we have sunk in sinful behaviours and bad habits, there is hope for us.
As Jesus would say: There is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents (who is healed completed of his spiritual leprosy) than over the ninety-nine who have no need for repentance. (Luke 15:7) Truth be told, God does not take any pleasure in the death of the sinner (Ezekiel 18:23) but it is His greatest desire to bring us out of our sinfulness. The leper asked Jesus a question: “If you will, you can make me clean.” And guess what Jesus said: “I will, be clean.” Let us now examine the leper’s steps to freedom:
a. THE LEPER DETESTED HIS CONDITION. First, the leper was not living in denial, he fully accepted his situation but he hated it and kept looking for a breakthrough. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves (1 John 1:8). However, the first step to healing is to develop a strong hatred for sin. This hatred for sin when fully developed within you will then push you to the next stage; it will cause you to move.
b. THE LEPER LEFT HIS COLONY. Notice that it was the leper who came to meet Jesus. The leper was not in the midst of other lepers, he was not in his comfort zone when he found Jesus. In his attempt to meet Jesus, he must have faced ridicule, shame and insults from people but he did not mind. Do you really seek to do away with sin in your life? Then change your friends, stop following those who cheer you up and encourage you in evil, leave your comfort zone, step out of any environment that breeds sin. Remove yourself from the leper’s colony.
c. THE LEPER CAUGHT THE ATTENTION OF JESUS. There were thousands of people pressing around Jesus but there was something this leper did; He knelt down before Jesus, and while prostrating, he expressed deep faith in Jesus’ ability to cleanse him: “If you want to, you can make me clean…” Jesus was immediately moved with pity. Thousands of people flock to prayer houses day in day out, there are churches everywhere today but the question is: “Does my prayer life get the attention of Jesus?” Do I have this attitude of faith as the leper?
d. THE LEPER ALLOWED HIMSELF TO BE TOUCHED. Just as in the healing of Peter’s mother in law, we see Jesus stretching out His hand to touch the leper. In those days, it was completely forbidden for a healthy person to touch a leper. By this action, Jesus literally fulfils the prophecy of Isaiah: “Surely he has borne our grief and carried our sorrows; … upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4-5) No matter how dirty you think you are, Jesus wants to touch you, He wants to carry your burdens, He wants to eat in your house (like He did with Zacchaeus), Jesus wants to embrace you but would you allow yourself to be touched? Would you soften your heart and decide to repent today?
e. THE LEPER BECAME AN EVANGELIST AFTERWARD. Upon receiving healing, the leper could not hold his joy. He forgot that Jesus told him not to tell anyone. The truth is that we just cannot keep silent once we encounter Jesus. if you have never spoken to anyone about Jesus, it is either you are yet to know Jesus or you are not yet convinced that Jesus is God or perhaps, you do not believe that Jesus has ever done anything good for you. The best and most effective form of evangelization is telling others our story; the story of our encounter with Jesus; the story of how our lives changed forever.
In conclusion, sin is worse than Leprosy and must be treated as such. Leprosy was such a dreaded disease that it was seen as a curse; a disease that only God could cure. In the same way, we must never joke with sin but avoid it all cost. It is true that only God can cure us of our sinfulness but we must first hate sin so much as to break off from our comfort zones to present ourselves to Jesus with complete faith and trust.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, I am tired of my leprosy, I hate my present condition so I come to you; if you want to, you can make me clean. Amen.
Year B. Bible Study: Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46. 1st Corinthians 10:31-11:1 and Mark 1:40-45.