Wednesday, January 11, 2017


Homily for January 12th, 2017: Mark 1:40-45.

          Lepers, in Jesus’ day, suffered not only from their disease, but also from exclusion from normal society. They were banned from public places. And since they were considered spiritually unclean they could not participate in Temple worship. Anyone who touched a leper also became spiritually unclean.

          This helps us understand why the man we have just heard about in the gospel reading is so desperate. He kneels down before Jesus, Mark tells us, and pleads with Jesus, “If you will to do so, you can cure me.”  The man’s faith in Jesus’ power to heal is crucial. Faith opens the door for God’s action in our lives.

          Out of compassion with this social outcast Jesus responds at once. Reaching out across the boundary between clean and unclean, Jesus touches the man, saying: “I do will it. Be cured.” The leprosy “left him immediately,” Mark tells us. Jesus has restored him to the community of God’s people. Jesus then orders the man not to publicize his healing. He did not wish to be known as a sensational wonder-worker. Instead he orders the man to fulfill the provisions of the Jewish law by going to a Temple priest and offering sacrifice. Jewish priests were then also quarantine officials.

          The man disobeys Jesus’ command. He is so thrilled by his healing that he immediately starts telling everybody about it. Whether he reported his healing to the Temple priest, Mark does not tell us. What Mark does report is that the notoriety caused by news of this healing made it “impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly. He remained outside in desert places, and people kept coming to him from everywhere.”                

          People are still coming to Jesus from everywhere. They sense in him someone who can change their lives for the better. In that they are right. Jesus is the one, and the only one, who can give us healing from our self-centeredness, our addictions and bad habits. He alone can give us, beyond healing, what our hearts most deeply desire: happiness, joy, and peace so deep that it passes human understanding.

          First, however, we must come, as the leper came, with the prayer: “If you wish, Lord, you can make cure me.”