Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time
First reading: Lv 13:1-2, 44-46
Responsoral Psalm: 32:1-2, 5, 11
Second reading: 1 Cor 10:31 – 11-1
Gospel: Mk 1:40-45
By Jem Sullivan
Chances are most of us struggle to keep up with New Year’s resolutions. I don’t know about you, but I’ve fallen behind on my spiritual resolutions already!
Thanks be to God we have the fast approaching Lenten season when the church invites us to return to the Lord with our whole heart, mind and soul. We have yet another chance to renew our resolve to be disciples of Jesus.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus heals a leper who approaches him with a confident plea. We know well that in Jesus’ day, lepers were ostracized from the social order. They lived outside cities and towns and were separated from normal activities of life.
The first reading from Leviticus describes how lepers were declared unclean by the priest, had to dress in a way that clearly identified them as outcasts and were commanded to stay outside the camp.
So aside from physical illness, the leper was truly helpless. This helplessness came not only from the fact that there were no effective cures or medicines, such as we might have with the scientific advances of today. Lepers were helpless because society had no place for them, saw them as having no worth and treated them with little value or dignity as a person.
St. Mark tells us that Jesus was moved with pity at the leper’s helpless condition. And as we ponder God’s word today, we might reflect on what it meant for Jesus to be moved with pity. We might contemplate the ways in which we too stand in need of Jesus’ healing love.
Jesus knew well that the leper’s physical disease had resulted in a much deeper sickness — the wound of rejection, alienation, loneliness and despair. The mission and purpose of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is to free humanity from this deepest of wounds — our separation from God.
Jesus was sent by his heavenly father to reconcile humanity to friendship with God so we would not suffer helplessness, alienation and despair wrought by sin.
Helplessness is part of the human experience. In the face of sickness, disappointment and rejection, and even our own weaknesses and failures, we find ourselves with the same vulnerability of the leper in today’s Gospel.
So, as we return to the Lord with renewed faith and trust in God’s healing mercy we pray the words of the psalmist in the responsorial psalm, “I turn to you, Lord, in time of trouble, and you fill me with the joy of salvation.” And we trust that, like the leper, we will encounter the fullness of God’s mercy and love.
Jesus desires to heal each one of us, just as he did with pity for the leper. May we hear Jesus say to us today, “I do will it. Be made clean.”
What healing do I seek from Jesus? How do I experience Jesus’ healing love in the word of God and in the sacraments of the church?
Sullivan is secretary for Catholic education of the Archdiocese of Washington.