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Scripture Reflections - Feb. 14
Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time

READINGS
Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46
1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1
Mark 1:40-45

Archives Msgr Paul E. Whitmore
Msgr. Paul E. Whitmore

Today’s readings provide guidelines for the way we should exercise mercy in our lives. The Scriptures begin with a passage from the Book of Leviticus. Here we find a collection of ritual and sacrificial laws for the Jewish priests. Why was cleanliness so important for them? They believed that external cleanliness in a person was a sign of being close to God. Even our own society has a saying, “cleanliness is next to godliness.”

They were even more afraid of the contagion connected with skin deformities, especially leprosy. The Mosaic law called for the exclusion of lepers from normal society. They were to shout out, “Unclean, unclean” when someone approached them. Their humiliation and loneliness of life must have been just as painful as their deformed bodies. Today, we are afraid of the virus. Do we make a phone call? Do we pray for them?

In today’s Gospel, the people who were listening to Jesus’ teaching must have been indignant at the leper who dared come physically close to Jesus and beg Him for a cure. They must have been horrified that Jesus actually reached out and touched this outcast. That made Jesus Himself legally unclean.

What a powerful lesson Jesus’ action taught that day! He was obviously compassionate, generously sacrificing his own social status by healing the man. Jesus must have sensed the great longing in that outcast to be again accepted not only by society, but also to be again a friend of God’s. And what a price Jesus paid for His mercy! Because the newly-cured leper, ignoring Jesus’ advice, spread the word of the healing throughout the region, it became impossible for Jesus to be seen in any public place without being mobbed by those seeking a similar cure. While the leper returns to society, Jesus is forced out. The messiah is now the one who must seek out desert places!

After this incident, Jesus’ listeners knew they should never fear to approach the Master because of their past sins or social standing. He would understand and show compassion. To the “dark side” in each of us, Jesus brings light and healing, if only we can trust in his love.

What is holding me back today from approaching Jesus for healing or just for His friendship? There’s no such thing as an “outsider” in Jesus’ book. All are welcome who seek His loving touch.

As the terrible scourge of the pandemic continues, we need to beg God to heal this particular form of “leprosy.” Through Mary and St. Joseph, we beseech Him daily for relief.

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