Fr. Kurian KollapallilToday’s Gospel narrates the miracle of Jesus’ healing of a leper. Leprosy was a dreaded disease during the me of Jesus as it was in the Old Testament. In Palestine leprosy was looked upon as an incurable disease. Lepers were not meant to live in the city with the people and could not have any contact with them. They had to live on their own, away from people where their families would leave some food for them. They were considered to be truly cursed by God. There were many lepers during Jesus’ time but one particular leprosy patient makes a bold move. He might have heard about Jesus, so confidently he looks for an opportunity and approaches Jesus and tells him: “If you want to, you can heal me.” Jesus did something extra ordinary; instead of stoning him he reaches out his hand, touches him, and declares him cured. Jesus is the New Man, in whom the power and merciful compassion of God abide, and who, in reaching out and touching the man afflicted with this awful and contagious condition heals him in his body, mind, and gives him a new dignity.

Leprosy, with its repugnant and frightful effects – rotting of the whole person, as it were, and the consequent social ostracism and alienation even from the closest and most beloved beings is a parable of sin. Indeed, “rabbinic rules explained that the illness was caused by severe transgression of the law and forbade any sort of approach to a victim of the illness. If a leper approached other people he was to be stoned” (Von Balthasar). Though we do not find leprosy colonies in US we find many in Africa and many other Asian countries. Leprosy still remains as a dreaded disease. Those infected with leprosy are ostracized and sheltered far away from the city. Our modern society is not free from the discrimination we make on the basis of color, creed, physical fitness, personal history and family history. We keep a person branded; we shun him from the possibility of leading a normal life. If you know anyone who was imprisoned for years for criminal offenses, when he comes out people will look at him with contempt. His leprosy is in his fingerprints, wherever he goes he will be seen as someone under observance and there are places in which he is forbidden to appear.

Sin is far more awful and contagious than leprosy. Sinners knowingly or unknowingly ostracize themselves. They turn away from God in their pride, and they rely upon their strength as they turn to themselves. The company of the sinners is indeed sinners. They do not realize that their flesh is rotten and they lack any pain and they continue to be consumed by the power of sin as the leprosy eats up the flesh of the one infected by it. To heal us and free us from our loneliness, for us Jesus became a moral leper: “He was spurned and avoided by men, a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity, one of those from whom men hide their faces, spurned, and we held him in no esteem. Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured” (Isaiah 53:3-5). King David a#er the adultery, he saw himself as a spiritual leper, needing cleansing. That is why David prayed “purify me with hyssop till I am clean” in his great Psalm of repentance (Psalm 51:7) .Only Jesus could heal a leper and restore to him the human dignity. His touch is tender, and loving, He cleanses us of the spiritual leprosy that keeps us away from the people and God and restores the dignity of the children of God.

“The move of Divine love pours forth a particular influence of perfection upon the virtuous actions of those who have in a special manner dedicated themselves to God and to serve him forever” St. Francis de Sales