Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Leviticus 13, 1-2, 44-46
Psalms 32:1-2, 5, 11
I Corinthians 10-31
Reflection Question: Might we all be secret lepers?
Today we hear the story in Mark’s Gospel about the healing of a leper. As I read it, I pondered the question.
Biblical leprosy does not necessarily refer to Hansen’s disease, or what we today call leprosy. Rather, in the Scriptures, leprosy refers to any visible defect – of the skin, the walls of one’s house, fabric or leather, etc. But for fear of contamination, those with skin eruptions or skin diseases were mandated to stay outside of the normal situations of social interaction. And usually, when the skin condition healed itself, the “leper” went to the high priest who declared that she or he no longer needed to be ostracized, but rather was restored to the community.
As we approach the beginning of Lent this week, we are invited to look at ourselves and notice areas of our life that are disfigured. Most of them are not externally visible, but we know them. As Jesus told us in another Gospel, “It is not what goes into a person, but what issues forth from the heart,” that condemns us. (Mark 7:15) We are invited during Lent to spend less time with outward appearances and more with matters of the soul. Our leprosy is inward: outbreaks of anger, disordered priorities, jealousy of others, lies to ourselves, slanderous words, selfish choices, indifference to the needy, mediocre faith, neglected prayer. We can add to this list indefinitely. No cosmetic cover-up, no medical salves or pills will hide these inner realities if we are truly honest with ourselves.
But, like the leper, we can come to Jesus with a sincere request. “If you wish, you can make me clean.” Jesus’ answer will come back to us, “I do will it. Be made clean.” This is what we celebrate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This is what we do through our Lenten prayer, fasting and almsgiving. This is what we say at every Eucharistic celebration. “Lord, I am not worthy, but only say the word and I shall be healed.”
As John Kavanaugh, SJ, wrote: “All of us are handicapped. It’s just that some of us can pretend better than others.” By claiming our own humanity and brokenness, we become less judgmental of others. We notice the excluded or ostracized. We care for victims of indifference or prejudice. We take on a kinder, gentler tone in our interactions. In our honest look into our hearts, we are healed, so that the Christ we put on in Baptism will manifest God’s love and forgiveness through us. And we won’t have to pretend!
By: Sister Susan Jenny, Sister of Charity of Seton Hill, Diocese of Greensburg