Of Leprosy and Mercy

Luke 5: 12-16
1 Jn 5: 5-13 / Ps 147

Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.
(Luke 5:12)

Grant us the wisdom, Lord Jesus,
By the Father’s Will abide.
With Your healing Word release us
From the “leprosy” of pride.

While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” He said. “Be clean!” And immediately the leprosy left him. Then Jesus ordered him, “Don’t tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear Him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. (Luke 5:12-16)

Reflection

The leper never doubted that Jesus could cure him of his leprosy. For him it was just a matter of whether the Lord was willing to grant his request or not. The Jews at that time believed that leprosy was the worst punishment from God for sinners. The leper therefore felt that because of his sins, Jesus might not be so willing to heal him, and so he fell with his face to the ground to beg Him for His miracle of healing.

Jesus then was moved by the man’s boldness to defy strict social conventions, (he could have been stoned or beaten for entering the town); his humility in owning up to his sinfulness; and most of all, by his great faith that Jesus was really God, because only God could free a leper from this malignant disease.

Not only did Jesus heal the man and forgave him of his sins, but the Lord showed him (and all the people watching) His great love and compassion by touching him. In those days it was considered anathema to touch a leper because of his uncleanness. But this was Jesus’ way of showing His followers how to express kindness and mercy to those who are considered the outcasts of society– the mendicants, the sick and the dying. Jesus is showing us that it is not so much the gift that we are sharing with them that makes the giving significant, but the love and sympathy that we feel for them. We saw this exemplified in the life of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. She showed genuine love and compassion to the sick and the dying, even embracing those in the throes of death to make them feel the love of God in their last moments.

How many people in our midst feel like lepers because society has turned a blind eye to their dire privation and neglect? Hopelessness has driven some to end their misery by committing suicide. And yet all that was needed was to give them a shred of hope, a little kindness and acceptance, an act of mercy to let them know that God cares for them, if only like that leper, they would turn to Him for help. Are we willing to help?

Heal us, Lord, of our moral afflictions, especially our pride, and complacency in being more responsive to the needs of others, especially those we find “detestable” just because they are poor or afflicted by some kind of disease. Help us to imitate even in a small way Your saints, like Mother Teresa and St. Francis of Assissi, who embraced a leper to show him Your love and give him hope. For all the blessings that we have received from You, it is only fitting that we also help those in need. Amen.

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