The Lepers Around Us

First Reading: 1 Sm 4:1-11
Psalm: Ps 44:10-11, 14-15, 24-25
Gospel: Mk 1:40-45

In the time of Jesus, leprosy was seen as a punishment from God for
the sins of the leper or for those of his ancestors. Any contact
with a leper was considered to be contrary to God’s will. Those who
witnessed Jesus as he touched and healed the man suffering from
leprosy were likely divided into opposite camps. Some were probably
scandalized that Jesus would violate ritual purity by touching a
leper while others marveled at the wonders he worked.

The lepers of today are all those whom we or our community consider
unworthy of our love. Lepers are symbolic of those from whom basic
dignity and respect are withheld. Today we are more subtle in the
ways we prevent people from being part of the community. We erect
barriers that allow to be separated from them, all the while
maintaining an illusion of moral superiority. Modern “lepers” are
the elderly whom some societies declare to be obsolete and useless.
We reject those who have had abortions. We must defend life and the
unborn but we must do so with love. We shun prostitutes but Jesus
always loved sinners with the hope that they would repent. The
examples are numerous.

As Christians, we must see Jesus in the poor, the sick, and the
outcasts of society.
We must be willing to step out in faith and
recognize the physical and mental pains in those around us. Through
parish or diocesan ministries, the true disciple can easily identify
and reach out to today’s untouchables in the name of Jesus. When we
do so, our ministry to those in need must be motivated by genuine
charity, a real love for those in need, for the unlikable and the
unlovable among us. There is no clearer example of what is required
of us than the story of Jesus healing the leper in today’s Gospel
reading.

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