SIXTH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR OF MARK
11th February 2018
Leprosy is now a curable disease, although there are still areas of the world where it lingers on. But the word is applied today to minority groups, tribes and races who are deemed “unclean” or “untouchable” by a majority. Classic recent examples are the anti-Semitism of Nazi Germany, the caste system in India or apartheid in South Africa, the treatment of the aboriginal peoples of Australia. Today we can cite the plight of the Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar or in Britain the hardening of racist attitudes, the stigma still attached to mental illness, and the widening gap between rich and poor.
While the world is becoming increasingly divided and aggressive, the policy of Jesus is to walk along the hard borders and courageously straddle the widening gaps, drawing our attention to them. He willingly makes himself accessible to the leper, who then has the courage to approach him for healing. “If you want to, you can cure me.”
The conditional question (“if”) posed by the leper is met immediately with Jesus’ unconditional response. “Of course I want to! Be cured!” And he touches the untouchable, closes the gap, heals the rift, in the process putting himself, from the majority perspective, “on the other side”. He is consigned to quarantine, the ghetto, the leper colony. Nevertheless, “people from all round would come to him”. It is not a question of bringing the leper back into society – it is bringing society to embrace the leper. The health of a society, a people, a nation, is judged on the way it treats its weakest members.
Even Christians build barricades, to exclude people as “evil”, “sinful”, or “beyond redemption”. Have we the courage to love like Jesus, to build bridges, not walls?
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