Sunday September 22, 2019
10:44 pm

Jesus waits eagerly to cleanse and save ‘lepers’ in every form

      Years ago, I recall sitting in an airport, waiting for my flight. With my nose planted in my book, I began to hear whisperings, gasps and even nervous laughter. Looking up, I spotted the man slowly making his way down the concourse to our gate with his attractive young wife by his side. The man was horribly disfigured with the scars of being burned. He walked with eyes downcast; I’m not sure if it was because his footing was unstable or if it out of shame and embarrassment.           

      His wife, on the other hand, kept her head held high with a proud look of defiance in her eyes, daring anyone to say something rude. The young teen sitting across from me picked up her carry-on and placed it on the empty seat next to her. She wasn’t taking any chances the man might decide to sit next to her.

      The couple finally settled in seats directly behind me. While I couldn’t see her face, I could hear the love in the wife’s voice and picture it in her eyes. She didn’t see that which disfigured him.

      That, I think, is a grand lesson to take away from this week’s Gospel (Mk 1:40-45).

      In the time of Jesus, lepers were the epitome of outcasts. Shunned by their community, they were even forbidden to worship in the temple.

      Although leprosy can be traced back thousands of years, the first effective treatment for the disease became available in the 1940s. That should have ended that barbaric practice of ostracizing people, right? Think again and look around.

      We have a not-so-attractive tendency to look for those around us who are considered “out of place,” while make it a quest to be perfect: the perfect body weight; hair; skin color. Plastic surgery is common place to fix any perceived imperfections in our features. Lord help those who fall short of the ideal!

      All the while, we desperately keep the door shut on those imperfections we hide inside: sinfulness; cruelty; hypocrisy; hatred and the need to hurt others; that driving need to be judgmental. They’re all imperfections that eat away at the soul, not much different than how leprosy can eat away at the body.

      Face it, no matter what one might fool themselves into believing, no one is perfect – inside or out. If that was the case, there would have been no need for Jesus to embrace his cross on our behalf.

      Let’s go back to the Gospel. This brave soul – this leper – approaches our Jesus. He doesn’t ask, “Can you save me?” He kneels before the Lord and with the certainty of faith says, “If you wish, you can make me clean.”

      Jesus doesn’t shrink back in disgust. He reaches out his hand, touches the leper, and says of course he will do it. “Be made clean.”

      This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. As we look at others critically and thankfully say, “There but for the grace of God go I,” what are the flaws and imperfections that impair our souls; all of those traits we try to hide from ourselves and God.

      Consider who are the lepers of our time? But more importantly, how do we fit right there in their midst?

      Jesus doesn’t see the ugliness that disfigures us all at times. His eyes shine with love as he waits to say, “I can cleanse you. I can do that.” Jesus saves.

      How wonderful it is to hear our Lord eagerly tell us, “Be made clean.”

 

      Debbie Bosak is the editor and general manager of Northwest Indiana Catholic Publications and a member of Ss. Peter and Paul Parish in Merrillville. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

 

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