A Leper Can Change His Spots

This Sunday’s readings show us two ways humans can live with their decrepitude: by isolating it and protecting others from it or by transforming it and sharing the new creation with others. The Old Testament reading from Leviticus (LV 13:1-2, 44-46) has God imposing strict guidelines for those marked by leprosy:

“The one who bears the sore of leprosy shall keep his garments rent and his head bare, and shall muffle his beard; he shall cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean!’ As long as the sore is on him he shall declare himself unclean, since he is in fact unclean. He shall dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp.”

This isn’t just a treatment for leprosy, but a warning about the human condition. Man bears the spot of original sin, which he inherited from Adam. We are called to be careful around each other, lest we infect our neighbors with our disease.

That warning about infection changes to a promise of a cure with the arrival of God’s favorite son, our brother Jesus.

In our gospel reading from Mark (MK 1:40-45) Jesus cures a leprosy victim but advises him to tell no one who did this for him. Instead, Jesus seems to be saying, be an example of how salvation came to you: through your faith.

“See that you tell no one anything,” Jesus told him, “but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them.”

Jesus sent this former leper back to work, advising him to re-connect with his community through the blessing of his church leaders and to act as a disciple—spreading the good news of how faith turns the threat of man’s mortality into the promise of salvation. This man’s big opportunity was to prove the truth of this gospel by example—starting with a demonstration of his cure.

Our cure depends on the same treatment: living our faith. Paul explains to the Corinthians how this is done in our second reading (1 COR 10:31—11:1):

“Avoid giving offense, whether to the Jews or Greeks or the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in every way, not seeking my own benefit but that of the many, that they may be saved. Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”

In his book, “The Joy of the Gospel,” Pope Francis says we can’t be imitators of Christ unless we share ourselves with others. Spiritual healing requires that we step outside the walls we use to protect ourselves from infection by others.

“The Gospel tells us constantly to run the risk of a face-to-face encounter with others, with their physical presence which challenges us, with their pain and their pleas, with their joy which infects us in our close and continuous interaction,” the Pope writes. “True faith in the incarnate Son of God is inseparable from self-giving, from membership in the community, from service, from reconciliation with others.”

Let’s forget about the condition we’re in and share ourselves unconditionally.

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