Jesus disciples must have recoiled when they saw the man approaching. Everyone feared the dreaded disease the he was obviously suffering from. Sure, showing signs of leprosy would make someone ritually unclean (Leviticus 13:46). But it was also deadly and thought to be very contagious. That’s why the Book of Leviticus had so many regulations to keep those suffering from leprosy isolated from society. No one wanted to risk contracting the disease!
So why did Jesus reach out to touch this man? Why didn’t he shrink back or turn aside? Because he was not afraid of the disease or the uncleanness. He could not be harmed or made unclean by any infirmity. Quite the opposite: Jesus had come to heal and restore all people. He could see beyond the disease and reach out to cleanse this beloved child of God. And by healing him, Jesus brought the man back into society.
Jesus isn’t afraid to reach out to us, either. While we might not be afflicted with leprosy, there is something that can cut us off from God and isolate us from other people our sin. But on the cross, Jesus took on himself our sins and those of the whole world. By his resurrection, he destroyed the power of sin and death. Sin has no hold on him, an he does not fear it. Each time we come to him in repentance, seeking healing and restoration, he replies to us as he did to the man with leprosy: “I do will it. Be made clean.” (Mark 1: 41).
Leprosy patient: “If you will, You can make me clean.” Jesus: “I will be clean.”
“If You will…” Two wills in action, in cooperation. When the will of God and the will of man cooperate, salvation is the fruit of cooperation between the humans and the divine: the divine enabling the human to operate and to cooperate.
The will belongs to the person. It moves the person to act. The will of the leprosy patient moved him to pray for healing. The will of Jesus moved Him to grant the healing. But the will to be moved – the motor that does the moving – has to be motivated to do the moving. The misery of the man motivated his will to plead for mercy. And Jesus’ compassion motivated His will to grant healing. St. Mark notes: “Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out His hand.”
Salvation takes place when the mercy of God meets the mercy of man. Salvation comes from God. Since God became man in Jesus, Salvation comes from God. Since God became man in Jesus. In Jesus God is ‘compassioning’, sympathizing, suffering with man. How could God really suffer with man, if God is not Emmanuel, God with us? And how could man unmistakably know that God not only is with man but suffers with him without God becoming man in Jesus and without Jesus suffering and dying for man?
Humans get their knowledge through sense –perception. God, who in the past had spoken in many and varied ways, at last spoke in His own Son Jesus God. God who at the start of human history made a pact with many saying. “I will be your God and you sha be My people” and the God who claimed to be the refuge and shelter, savior and protector of man, is fully manifested and revealed in the person and action of Jesus.
The healing of the man with leprosy (Gospel) is just one instance of the mystery of salvation taking place through Jesus Christ, just one more illustration of god proving that He is mercy and love. Jesus in flesh and blood, tangible and palpable, is more than what the senses can register and master. He is more than what He is visibly: the son of man. Primarily and principally, he is Son of God. And that is invisible. In the case of man with leprosy also, our senses fail to grasp the full extent of the situation. All right, his skin is rotten, his limbs reduced to ugly stumps, his body ulcerates, emitting an obnoxious odour, and eventually he may become demented. Physically and mentally, a leper becomes repulsive both to himself and to others. This is what the senses grasp.
But they fail to fathom the full import of today’s Gospel. The leper stands for the misery of man, from which Jesus came to lift him up physical misery, but above all, spiritual misery. He stands for the sin-infected disfigured humanity; he is the mirror of man’s soul without God. Jesus is the mirror of God’s heart of love and mercy. The leper is my soul. I am the leper. Jesus is my Saviour, and my salvation depends on my pleading. “If You will, You can make me clean.” And all that Jesus was. He is in the Eucharist.
In the healing of the leper we see the divine compassion of the Lord for suffering humanity. Out of compassion and love for the human race He became man, fought the evil of suffering and sickness, and finally conquered it by His own suffering and death. In his infinite love for humankind. He placed heaven and a share in the life of God within our reach. We are always in need of His mercy because we are inclined to sin, and often we do sin.
But He will heal us if we have the faith of the leper to plead: “If You will. You can make me clean,” faith in the mercy and power of Jesus. In the Gospel narrative He shows us that He does will, and does want to heal us, and His incarnation and death prove it beyond all doubt.
So come to Jesus with your sins. Bring to him your isolation and suffering. He won’t pull away from you. He is the pure One who removes all of your impurity. He is the holy One who takes on your sin and strips it of its power over you. Like the man suffering from leprosy, don’t be afraid to approach Jesus. Le him bring you restoration an healing!
“Jesus in my weakness and need I come to you! Cleanse me and make me whole.”
Wish you a holy Season of Lent!