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(Part 15)


February 12, 2012

Today’s readings
Leviticus 13:1-2,44-46
Psalm 32:1-2,5,11
1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1
Mark 1:40-45

The Israelites had very strict laws on leprosy. In sum, anyone who was leprous was declared unclean and had to be excluded from the people. He was to “dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp.” (Lev 13:46b). He was to move about crying out “Unclean, unclean!” (Lev 13:45c). This is so people could avoid him and possible contagion.

All this was because the Israelites were called to be a holy people, God’s own people. They looked to purity, and reflected this in their laws. Any uncleanness, whether of certain foods or childbirth or chronic flow from private parts or menstruation or leprosy, was enough reason to be excluded. One then needed to go through rites of purification to be restored to community (Mk 1:44).

Today the scourge of leprosy has by and large been eliminated by modern medicine. But what remains is the leprosy of sin. Sin makes us unclean, and grave sin cuts us off from God and excludes us from the fellowship of His people. During Jesus’ time, lepers were clearly identifiable, in fact even having to proclaim themselves unclean. Today, aside from overt sinners, sin resides in the hearts of people, and others are not aware of their sin. They might even be not just active in church, but active as leaders. Some of them might even be priests.

Unlike in ancient Israel, where lepers were excluded, sinners are invited to come and return to fellowship with God and enter into the life of the Church. In fact, God searches for those lost sheep. And when found, the community of God’s people, including the angels and saints in heaven, break out in great rejoicing.

Sinners do not need to doubt God’s mercy. We do not have to ask, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” (Mk 1:40b). Jesus went to the cross to make us whole. Jesus certainly desires that we become pure. His response is swift, “I do will it. Be made clean.” (Mk 1:41b). Let us always be confident as we turn to Jesus: “Then I declared my sin to you; my guilt I did not hide. I said, ‘I confess my faults to the Lord,’ and you took away the guilt of my sin.” (Ps 32:5).

How would we feel if we experienced God’s mercy and healing and were made pure? We would be ecstatic with joy! “Happy the sinner whose fault is removed, whose sin is forgiven.” (Ps 32:1). We would be so joyful that we could not contain such joy. We would need to proclaim to all what God has done for us. The leper “went away and began to publicize the whole matter. He spread the report abroad” (Mk 1:45-46a).

From the leprosy of sin to a life of purity. From being banished from God’s people to being in full fellowship with God and the Church. From a life of misery to a life a great joy. Such is our new life in Christ. It is a life lived only “for the glory of God.” (1 Cor 10:31b).

The leper was rejected and excluded. The “just” and the “upright of heart” (Ps 32:11), the one who lives pure, whose light shines forth, attracts others. We then point them to Christ as we show them the way. “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” (1 Cor 11:1). Then we look to them flocking to Jesus, the One who heals and makes clean. May it indeed be that “people kept coming to him from everywhere.” (Mk 1:45d).

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