Today is the last Sunday prior to the season of Lent. The main focus in today’s liturgy is leprosy. The first reading taken from the Book of Levities describes the way the people afflicted with leprosy were treated in the ancient Jewish society. First, they had to be declared unclean by the priest. Then they were instructed to follow certain regulations to keep away from the rest of the people. Even the Jewish ritual demanded that the worshiper be physically without any visible blemish. This way the lepers were not allowed to take part in Jewish ritual on the grounds of their skin disease. According to the Jewish law, none of the lepers were allowed to approach God. So, the lepers of that society experienced complete isolation from both the civil and religious societies. It was a double blow to them. Religious leaders of that time used this purity system to exercise their power over the people. Jesus’ positive response to the leper in today’s gospel was indeed a slap on the purity system of the Jewish leaders which excluded such vulnerable people. At a time when people were admonished to keep away from such lepers, Jesus approaches and heals him by touching Him. Touching a leper in that society was not a common thing. At the end the Leper met the right priest in the person of Jesus Christ who did not condemn him rather restored him to full membership in God’s community and to solidarity in human fellowship.
Today’s gospel story is a great example to show Jesus going to those places that are considered godless, unholy, unclean and taboo places by taking God’s presence into them. Each and every one of us has grey areas or dark spots in our lives. Jesus is willing to enter into our unhealthy or unholy places but he needs our permission. Even the touch of the hem of his cloak healed the woman suffering from haemorrhage. You may be still haunted by a hurtful memory, a broken relationship or struggling with a bad habit or may be suffering from a physical or verbal abuse which happened in the past. These are the taboo or dark places that you don’t want anyone else to enter into. Jesus is aware of all these areas of our lives. Jesus wants you to come as you are. Therefore, let us not be afraid to present ourselves to Jesus with all iniquities and impurities.
In this Holy Eucharist Jesus is literally placing the sacred Paten and the sacred Chalice in your hands so that you may place all that is considered unholy, unclean, impure or sinful in your life. God the Father never refuses to accept what His Son offers Him. In the case of the leper, Jesus willed that the leper be cured and God the Father cleansed the leper. Jesus has already willed that you be cured or freed. Therefore, offer yourself to be touched by His divine grace like the leper during this Eucharistic Celebration.
As I mentioned at the beginning, like the lepers there are many people amongst us who live in total isolation. There is no one either to listen or talk to them. Let me end my reflection with a quote from Mother Teresa, who touched not only the physical bodies of lepers but their hearts as well.
“The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty — it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.”
Fr Chaminda Wanigasena
Chaplain, Sri Lanka Catholic Community, NSW