We have lived through the season of Advent in which we prepared for Christmas. We have lived through the beautiful celebration of the incarnation of Our Divine Lord in the Christmas season, and then his manifestation to the world during the days of Epiphany. Now we begin the Ordinary Time, in which we watch prayerfully as Our Lord establishes the Kingdom of God in this world by his preaching, his miracles, his choice of his apostles who will be the foundation stones of his Church, and then—during Lent and the Paschal Triduum—his sufferings, death, and resurrection.
After his baptism by Saint John the Baptist, Jesus wastes no time in returning to his home country of Galilee and beginning to preach and validate his preaching by miracles. Today we have a very interesting one in the gospel for Mass. A leper approaches Jesus. The sick man should not have done so, since leprosy was considered a hideous disease, extremely contagious, and lepers were bound by the laws, both civil and religious, of the Jewish people to avoid contact with healthy people. If a healthy person got too close to a leper, the leper was obliged to shout, “Unclean! Unclean!” and even to ring a bell to warn the healthy one of his presence. So here, we have a leper violating the law, to say nothing of common sense, in drawing close to Jesus. Had Jesus been an ordinary man, he would probably have recoiled and not allowed the sick man to get too close to him.
He was not an ordinary man; he did not recoil at all. In fact, he did the very opposite. When the leper said to him, “If you wish, you can make me clean,” Our Lord STRETCHED OUT HIS HAND AND TOUCHED THE LEPER and said, “I do will it. Be made clean.” Saint Mark tells us that the Lord did this because he was “moved with pity” by the sick man who was forced to live outside the parameters of Jewish social life.
By touching the leper, Jesus was of course violating the religious laws of cleanliness even more than the leper had done by approaching him. But as we shall see time and again in the gospel, Our Lord was very interested in the real, moral law, but not at all concerned about the more than 600 regulations that the Jewish authorities had enacted to protect their relationship with God. Many of Jesus’s quarrels with the extremely law-ridden Pharisees had to do with all those laws which were of human, not divine, origin.
But today, we want to adore Our Blessed Lord as he is moved with pity over the leper, stretches out his hand and touches the man, thereby healing him. Let us say to him, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” And then let us allow his mercy and his love for us to prompt him to do what he wills in our regard. Thank you for seeking God’s truth, God Bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.