Gospel: Mk 1:40-45
A leper came to Jesus 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.
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.
Prayer: Come Holy Spirit, come Father of the Poor, lead us to the fullness of Love. Amen.
There couldn't have been suffering as dreaded as leprosy in the ancient world. Victims were sentenced to a slow and painful death, cast away in fear from the community and family they've known and loved to die in a deserted place. How completely an individual's life would have changed at the sight of that first sore on their flesh.
This leper who kneels at Jesus' feet today in the Gospel--imagine his journey to that moment: when he first noticed the sore; when the sore could no longer be hid and he was shown to the priest and declared, "unclean." How quickly it must have unraveled from there--being hurriedly pushed from the town, never to return to those familiar streets; the first night that he spent in the dark empty expanse outside the city; the weeks and months that followed as he learned to survive cut off from everything familiar, all the while watching and feeling the painful sore boil wider on his body. ....how much suffer this unnamed leper must have carried not only in his body but also his heart when he kneels in the dust before Jesus and begs, "If you wish, you can make me clean."
Yet all this horror yields to profound intimacy, a moment of intimate encounter: "Moved with pity, [Jesus] stretched out his hand, touched him and said, I do will it, be made clean." The leper that day met the gaze and received the touch of Infinite Love.
I wonder if for the Leper, in moment of his healing, not only the present was made beautiful but also, in a mysterious way, his whole journey of suffering. Undoubtedly Christ's gentle gaze didn't take away the agony of all he went through (he truly suffered) but somehow it was made beautiful by a new understanding that this encounter never would have happened had he never seen that first sore, had life as he knew it hadn't helplessly unraveled before him. Like all the poor in the Gospel, -Blind Bartimaeus, the hemorrhaging woman, Mary Magdalene bound by seven demons,--it was exactly their sufferings that brought them to the to the feet of Christ the "secure and comfortable" never could know. At the moment of encounter it seems that each could see the whole past with gratitude because all of it brought them to this definitive moment of new life.
The world tells us to hid our pain, our sufferings, to resign to our lot in life--but Christ calls us deeper. He wants all our sufferings (even those self-inflicted by sin) to draw us to his feet--he wishes to make it beautiful by his gaze. What is it this week that draws us to his feet, in prayer, in the Mass? Ask for the grace to receive his gaze there. Our poverty is the gate of his love.
Prayer: Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.