The mycobacterium leprae that causes leprosy is unknown in Jesus’ time; hence, the term leprosy (Hebrew zerrat) refers to any eruptive skin disease characterized by the appearance of rough, scaly patches on the skin. The Jews are more concerned about the ritual uncleanness than the contagion of “Biblical leprosy.” Contact with a leper renders a person unclean and therefore unfit to approach God or worship in the Temple. The Mosaic Law is very strict on the observance of bodily hygiene and cleanliness (cf Lv 13–14). For the Jews, holiness encompasses both moral uprightness and bodily wholeness and integrity. And so to protect the community from being contaminated, the leper is ordered to “dwell apart, taking up residence outside the camp” (Lv 13:46). Hence, to be separated from the community was worse than to be jailed. People may die of seclusion before they die of leprosy itself; thus, with their condition, the lepers are deemed “living dead.”
Jesus is “moved with pity” and He stretches out and touches him. With His gesture Jesus breaches the barrier that separates the “clean” from the “unclean.” Jesus takes the initiative and with the pronouncement, “I do will it. Be made clean,” He stoops to the level of the leper to grant him healing and salvation. Again, through Jesus, the Kingdom of God is at work among the people.
Gospel • MARK 1:40-45
A leper came to Him and kneeling down begged Him and said, “If You wish, You can make me clean.” Moved with pity, He stretched out His hand, touched him, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.” The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean. Then, warning him sternly, He dismissed him at once. Then He said to him, “See that you tell no one anything, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them.” The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter. He spread the report abroad so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly. He remained outside in deserted places, and people kept coming to Him from everywhere.
SOURCE: “365 Days with the Lord 2019,” ST. PAULS, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 632-895-9701; Fax 632-895-7328; E-mail: email@example.com; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph.