LEPROSY OF SIN – 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Contagious skin diseases strike fear into people. Leprosy was such a disease in Jesus’ time. Today it is known that leprosy was not as contagious as people thought then. Our equivalent today may be the disease of AIDS. A leper in Jesus’ day had to remain outside the community living apart from others for fear of giving them the disease. If anyone was to come close to them, they were to yell out “Unclean, unclean”. On hearing such words, people would flee in fear.
We can imagine the horror, fear, emotional and spiritual separation, not to mention the physical suffering of the leper. Their lives became unbearable, in human, and filled with despair. Their only consolation would be death, and if they had faith, the consolation of God. Many of them, no doubt, placed all their faith in God and through their total dependence on the Lord, received eternal life. “I turn to you, Lord, in time of trouble, and you will fill me with the joy of salvation.” (Psalm 32)
The leper Jesus meets must have had tremendous courage and faith to approach Jesus. In spite of his leprosy and pain, he was still able to believe in the power of Jesus to heal him. His disease had humbled him and he kneels down before the Lord. “If you wish, you can make me clean.” That is a powerful act of faith for someone in his state to make. He knows he has no power himself over the disease. He places all his faith in the healing power of Jesus. Jesus broke the laws of His society and touched the leper. Jesus responded to his faith stretching out His hand and touching him as He said: “I do will it. Be made clean”. The act of faith and the power of Jesus came together in that moment. “The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean.”
No longer would he have to carry out the law of Moses recorded in the Book of Leviticus which says: “The one who bears the sore of leprosy…shall cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean!’…He shall dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp.” We really can’t blame the healed leper for spreading the word about Jesus. This made it harder for Jesus to get people to hear His message about the kingdom and His mission, but Jesus didn’t seem to object too much when “…people kept coming to Him from everywhere.”
A disease like leprosy distorts the outer person and makes you immediately aware of its presence. There are other diseases, which work from the inside out, such as heart disease and blood diseases. We may not be as moved by them as seeing someone with a skin disease. Jesus in His human nature saw in the leper the state of the human race. It was a physical sign of a deeper leprosy, the leprosy of the spirit called sin. Jesus also came to heal the leprosy of sin, which is not as easy to recognize. Many today live in moral and spiritual leprosy. The daily news, as well as simple personal observation, reveals inner spiritual leprosy. If we could see into the inner depths of the heart, mind and spirit of a spiritual leper, we would be horrified. We see extreme forms of spiritual leprosy in the lives of those put on trial for great crimes of murder, rape, theft and injustices of all kinds. And often a person’s own words and actions reveal the presence of the leprosy of sin. Some are removed from society and placed in prisons. Unfortunately, our society is not as sensitive to the disease of spiritual leprosy called sin, which can spread through contact with those who encourage and lead others into sin. The carriers of the germ and spiritual disease of leprosy are often welcomed into our living rooms through the media’s presentation of immorality, especially in the area of sexual immorality, violence and greed. While they don’t yell “…Unclean, unclean!”, we should know to tune them out to protect ourselves and our children.
In many ways, the leprosy of sin is worse than the leprosy of the body. If not treated, it can have eternal consequences. The same power that healed the Gospel leper is available to heal the leprosy of sin. The forgiveness of Christ heals the leprosy of sin. When we go down on our knees and acknowledge we have some spiritual leprosy in the form of sin, and also acknowledge the power of Jesus to cure us, we can experience being spiritually healed. Without acknowledging sin and without placing faith in Jesus’ healing power of forgiveness, especially in Sacramental Penance, we may not be easily healed. Spiritual lepers often experience guilt, separation from the Church, and sense of being unclean spiritually. Some in their guilt seem to say to everyone, stay away from me I am unclean. Some live in a kind of despair and hopelessness and see no way out of the bondage of sin and its spiritual consequences. There is no reason to stay in the leprosy of sin since the death and resurrection of Jesus destroyed sin through His cross and death. When we can say to the Lord about our spiritual leprosy what the leper of the Gospel said, we can be cured. “If you wish, you can make me clean.” Lent is the ideal time to accept the cure of spiritual leprosy. Then, we can glorify the Lord and know freedom and hope more completely. As Paul urges us: “…whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the Glory of God.”