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6th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle B

Mark 1:40-45

“If you choose, you can make me clean.” (Mark 1:40)

As Jesus continues his ministry throughout Galilee, a leper comes to Him, begging for healing.  For us in the modern era, this may seem as a straightforward healing, but when we look closer at the text, we can see how powerful this encounter is.

Leprosy in the Bible references not only the ailment of leprosy but all skin conditions. Anyone with a rash would be considered a leper and separated from society.  So we must imagine this leper is not only suffering physically.  He also has the pain of isolation and shame.  In this state, he comes to beg before Jesus.  Bending low, he sets  aside concerns about what others will think of him.  His words, “If you choose, you can make me clean,” are an act of faith, which puts his whole life in Jesus’ hands.

Jesus responds to this misery with more than is asked.  He reaches out to touch him, risking infection and defying the law.  With this gesture, he offers the leper healing and consolation. Next, Jesus warns the leper, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest.”  His purpose in healing is for the leper himself.

In this encounter, the leper demonstrates an abandonment of spirit, kneeling before Jesus in misery and then joyfully proclaiming what has been done.  In both cases, he defies what is expected of him, yet shows his radical faith.  It is difficult to ask for help from others, even when we are in need, since our society places value on self-sufficiency.  There have been times when I have been in recovery, friends and family have asked how they can help, yet I don’t know how to accept these generous offers.  In other cases, I have been in need of help and afraid to reach out and ask.

It is even the same with the Lord.  Perhaps we think we can handle our shortcomings on our own, if we just exercise more determination, discipline, and executive function.  But we have an even greater option of surrendering it all to Jesus, like the leper.  In our misery, we can draw closer to the Lord, receiving his consolation, which is the true gift of healing.


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