During the time of Jesus leprosy was a terrifying disease.
There was no cure. It killed very slowly.
As it progressed it horribly disfigured a person and perhaps it most terrifying consequence was that those who suffered it were forced to carry its terrible burdens alone.
Those who were afflicted with leprosy were isolated from the community, they were forced to live apart from those who loved them.
They were force to rend their garments and appearance so that they could be easily recognized and avoided
and if anyone should them approach they were to identify themselves and yell unclean unclean.
And if a loved one or any person moved by compassion touched a leper he or she would also then bear the same isolation the same consequences.
Because of the terror and fear that leprosy produced ever rash every blemish was looked upon with suspicion. Many times people who didn’t even have leprosy were treated as if they did.
They were humiliated and isolated for no reason but fear.
The only way to be re-admitted to the community was to present oneself to the priest in the temple. He was the ultimate arbiter and decided who had leprosy and who didn’t who was healed and who was not.
Put in a nutshell people afflicted with this terrible disease were no longer considered people, human beings, it robbed them of their humanity.
All of what I’ve said makes the Gospel account we read to day so amazing.
The man approached Jesus… his trust was so great his desire to be made whole so strong that he took a great risk and went right up to Jesus.
His words were not words of lament or woe is me.
He didn’t ask Jesus why me?
Why do I have to suffer this horrible disease, Rather he simply made a profession of faith.
He trusted Jesus.
he trusted God so much that he even let Jesus decide if it was in his best interest to be healed.
If you want to you can heal me. He said
Jesus’ response was immediate.
I do want to heal you he said be clean.
The leper was a man of faith a man who had worked through all of the suffering and isolation he had and still believed.
Even terrible disease of leprosy could not deprive him of his faith of his ability to hope.
Jesus was compassionate.
Without hesitation he touched the man.
He cared not that if he had been seen he also would have been declared unclean.
He was willing to get involved in a messy situation.
His compassion, his pity immediately moved him to action.
It did not remain a feeling but was incarnated, it took flesh and became a living saving response.
When he was healed the man could not contain himself as Jesus requested. He told everyone.
And because of this Jesus could no longer enter any town or village because as word spread crowds of people would simply swamp him with their needs.
Jesus did not come to be the world’s best Doctor or the world’s best social worker or world’s best problem solver.
He could have been all those things and more
But to do so would have placed to much attention on this world and not enough on the next.
He came instead to proclaim the good news of salvation, He came show the way to eternal life.
As I read the Gospel this week I asked myself who do we treat as lepers these days,
Is there anyone that frightens us so much or disgusts us or bothers us so much or inconveniences us so much that that we allow ourselves to treat them as non-people.
Sadly if you think about it the answer is still yes.
The inconveniences of an unexpected or unwanted pregnancy allow us to deny the humanity of child.
And those who suffer from addictions are often so isolated from the community that they find not hope or reason to even try to be free of their addictions.
And what about those born into poverty. Sometimes we worry so much about our own comfort and well being that we are only willing to give to them from our excess, from our leftovers, even when their lives are so much more desperate than our own.
We allow ourselves to treat them as second class citizens and somehow convince ourselves that we have more rights to the goods of this world then they.
How many people have we as a nation just locked up and thrown away the key without any real attempt to work with them and rehabilitate them.
There are still so many people we isolate today… you know they are the ones we pass on the street and avoid making eye contact with, they are the ones whose calls we never take, they are the ones we just are not willing to touch or become involved with
The leper’s example also is important for us to consider.
He didn’t let his circumstances take away his ability to hope or his ability to believe.
As much as he suffered he still was able to trust in God’s love and God’s mercy for him.
He did not allow self pity to take away his ability to hope.
Sometimes when life throws us the slightest curve ball we question and we doubt.
If that had been the response of the Leper he never would have been healed because he never would have asked.
He trusted that God knew what was best for him and in this case it was that he be healed maybe sometimes it is not in our best interest to be healed or get what we want.
I for one am most grateful that I have not received everything I’ve prayed for.
“If you want to you can heal me… the leper said”
How often do we just demand what we think we need from God rather than trust His divine providence.
At great risk Jesus put his compassion into action. He touched the man and he healed him.
The Gospel called us to examine ourselves.
How often does our compassion, our pity simply remain just a feeling, How often do we continue down the road of life and fail to touch the lives of people who need us and whatever we have to offer them.
Jesus could not enter the town or villages because people looked to him to solve their material needs.
They wanted Him to heal them to feed them, to solve their disputes etc.
They were in the very presence of God and all they were worried about was food or health or whatever, when God could offer them so much more.
Do we look to God for our simple comforts now or do we see in Jesus the way home to eternal life with him.
Something to think about.
"” If you want to you can heal me he said”