Reflection for 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Perhaps it is difficult for us to appreciate the terrible disease of leprosy, living in the United States in 2021. The words of Psalm 31 (v11-12) help us understand better what that disease was like at the time Jesus walked this earth. “Those who know me are afraid of me; when they see me in the street, they run away…I am like something thrown away.”
Furthermore we hear in today’s first reading from Leviticus: “The one who bears the sore of leprosy shall keep his garments rent and his head bare, and shall muffle his beard; he shall cry out, “Unclean, unclean!…He shall dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp.”(Lv13:45-46)
We know that this disease isolated a person from the mainstream community, and of course therefore from the ability to worship in the synagogue, that is, practice their faith. Jesus cures both the man’s physical ailment, but also the spiritual.
The Church Fathers tell us that sin is like leprosy, since it isolates us from our loving God and our community. When we are touched by the mercy of Jesus Christ in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, our relationship with God is restored as well as with the community. As our Psalm response proclaims: “I turn to you, Lord, in time of trouble, and you fill me with the joy of salvation.” (Ps32:7)
Why did Jesus touch the man? He could have cured him remotely without coming in contact with the leper. This touch reveals the incredible love and compassion of Jesus Christ. It is very probable that the leper hadn’t been touch by anyone, since being isolated from the community.
When reading this gospel, a familiar story about St. Francis of Assisi comes to mind…when he overcomes his tremendous fear of a leper and embraces him. While we may not actually embrace a leper…there are people in our life that we need to remove the distance that we have created between us and them. Sometimes within our own family…other times, we don’t want to get involved – we are too busy, afraid or something else.
While we don’t have lepers in our communities, we do have the sick in hospitals, the elderly in nursing homes, the incarcerated in prisons etc., all in need of being “touched” by the love of Jesus from and through us. Let us all pray for the grace to “embrace the lepers” of 2021 and in doing so, we find the Lord Jesus Christ, in these least of the brethren.
May God bless us always!