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“If You Wish, You Can Make Me Clean”

What can we learn today from a leper who kneels before Jesus in the hope of being healed?

Gospel (Read Mk 1:40-45)

We know from our reading of St. Mark’s Gospel that as Jesus began His public ministry, He drew large crowds (see Mk 1:28, 33, 37).  Today, we meet a leper who had apparently seen or heard enough about Jesus to make him take a bold action.  Jewish law kept lepers away from the worshiping community, because the leprosy made them ritually unclean, unable to participate in the liturgical life of Israel.  This can be difficult for us, in our day, to understand.  In the Law of Moses, in order to teach the people about God’s holiness—a lesson they desperately needed in order to be His chosen people—they had to learn in simple, obvious ways that God is Life Itself, pure goodness, perfect justice.  Nothing associated with death (the result of man’s disobedience) could enter His presence.  That meant that blood, disease, or death (a corpse) made a man ritually unclean, keeping him away from worship.  Ritual defilement always called for ritual purification.  These exterior practices, given early in Israel’s history, were meant to teach the people the difference between holiness and impurity, between righteousness (life) and sin (death).  Ritual impurity, like a contagious disease, could be spread by contact from one person to another.  Thus, lepers were required to live apart from the liturgical communion of Jews, and they were never to have physical contact with anyone who was ritually clean.  It is good to remember, too, that ritual uncleanness, which said nothing about the state of a person’s soul, was different from personal uncleanness, caused by actual sin, which did.

Knowing this, we can better appreciate the courage of this leper in our reading.  What made him disregard the restrictions of Jewish law and drop down on his knees before Jesus?  Was it the reputation Jesus had already earned as One who taught with authority, cast out demons, and cured the sick?  The leper longed to be “clean.”  He wanted not just to be healed of a dreadful disease but also to be able to enter again the worship of God’s people.  He must have been convinced that Jesus could do this, and so he pressed forward.

Read more at Catholic Exchange 

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