The Gospel according to Mark (1:40-45)
A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, “If you choose, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I do choose. Be made clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, saying to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.
Reflection: There are two ways we can take today’s gospel, literally and figuratively. The first sees a person stricken with a debilitating disease that ravages the body but also separates a person from all ties to family and community. The second looks for the meaning or symbolism in the story and compares it to how sin can ravage the soul and separates us from family and community. Either approach leads to the same conclusion. There is something that can cause damage to an individual, but it also affects everyone around them.
What is the remedy for such an affliction? Part of the problem that prevents access to the remedy is we know that Jesus can heal us, but we often lack the courage or motivation to reach out and ask for healing. Whether it is pride, apathy, ignorance, or any other human weakness we are our worst enemy.
The leper in today’s gospel sought Jesus out, came to him, and knelt before him. These are the actions and behaviors of a person who realizes they need help. They acknowledge their mistakes, take ownership, and in humility ask for healing. Too often we get caught up in our busy lives, doing all the things that we believe define who we are. We work, parent, go to church, and maybe sacrifice our time, treasures, and talents to serve but do we take care of our souls. If only we would work as hard at maintaining our inside as we do the outside. Like the leper we can ask Jesus, “if you wish you can make me clean.” And every single time, without any strings attached Jesus’ reply will be the same. He will say, “I do will it.”
When was the last time we made a good confession? I didn’t ask when was the last time. I asked when was the last good. There is a difference. Jesus waits and is always ready to forgive, heal so that we can be true signs of his restorative touch. Then we will be like the leper who cannot contain his joy and share it with everyone, and they will keep coming to him from everywhere.
Action of the Day: Let’s all try to make 2023 a year with a more regular reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Explore new ways of approaching Jesus not just with a list as much as with a sincere and humble heart. We can always go deeper because the wells of God’s mercy and forgiveness are inexhaustible.