The liturgy of the sixth Sunday is based on the following readings: Leviticus 13:1-2, 45-46; Psalm 32; 1Corinthians 10:31-11:1; Mark 1:40-45. The main theme of these readings is an appeal for Christians to make Christ credible by being as compassionate as Christ is. That is Christian testimony. This would require us to imitate Christ’s readiness to alleviate the pain of those who suffer even if it means taking it on ourselves. In order to do it Christ’s way, we should first of all try to become more like our brothers and sisters who are suffering by putting ourselves in their situations. It is not easy, but that is what heroism is all about!
In the first and third readings the suffering man is represented as a leper. Leprosy was considered a mysterious disease long before medical science demystified it as a dreadful but curable disease. During the period of the Old Testament, there was no remedy for this terrible disease. The only way to stop its spread was to condemn the lepers to a complete solitude, a kind of hell-on-earth. A leper suffered both physically and socially. He or she faced social ostracism and alienation even from the closest and most beloved members of his or her family. According to the “rabbinic rules” the disease was thought of as a result of individual’s severe transgression of the law. This explains the kind of complex a leper was likely to live with! The same law forbade any sort of contact with a victim of the illness. And a leper who came near the healthy had to warn them or he or she was stoned and scared away.
That was the standard relationship between the suffering lepers and the ‘normal’ community. In the Gospel, Jesus reacts differently and against the ‘rabbinic rules’. When the leper approached him for help, he extends his hands and touches on him in a friendly way and cures him of his leprosy. The leper must have been so surprised because he thought he did not deserve that gesture! Nobody had ever touched him so tenderly. Most people threatened him away with stones. Needless to say, by showing this friendly sign to a leper, Jesus revealed himself as the New Man for all seasons. A Man we can all trust and in whom the unfailing power and merciful compassion of God abide.
What he did then, he continues to do in our time! As he reached out and touched the man afflicted with this awful and contagious disease, Jesus continues to take it upon himself in order to free man of the kind of leprosy which suffer today. For the sake of man, Jesus became a moral leper: there are people who rejected him because he stayed with the sick and the lowly and even ate with them. He was never ashamed of such people. Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured which made him spurned by some people and avoided by many others. And this is a great lesson for the entire humanity
Another lesson driven home by this liturgy is that Jesus continues to reach out and heal his people today in different ways, especially through his sacraments. It is especially important in our time that we should be able to go near him when we are afflicted by any kind of leprosy, sin included, so that we are cured too by Jesus´ personal touch.
Like the cured leper, we must experience Jesus’ touch with its vital and transforming power, which enables us to touch and heal others. Today more than ever before, it is very essential that Christians must have the courage of making Christ credible to the world, by reproducing in their own lives Christ’s readiness to alleviate the pain of those who suffer even if it means taking it on themselves. Prophet Isaiah knows how hard this should be for a common man; he advises us to put ourselves in the place of the suffering in order to feel what they need from us. It can’t be stoning! It is protection. And we all know it from the golden rule: Do to others what you would like done to you! Yes, it is not always simple! But it is worthy trying because some people have done it.