for Sunday, February 15, 2015
It is not easy for us to understand being excluded completely from society, as were lepers in much of the Old Testament and even in the time of Jesus. Perhaps at this time in history, a close approximation to this situation would be someone who has just returned from a country with the ebola virus. There can be an enormous fear of being infected and a complete rejection of the person who has been in an ebola area.
Thinking about ebola and the scare that it can cause helps us understand the first reading and the Gospel today. The first reading, from the Book of Leviticus, tells us about how lepers are to be treated. We understand this attempt at quarantine as an effort to protect the community as a whole. Such efforts are not rejection of a person but an honest attempt to deal with the disease the person might spread and which could affect the whole people.
The person afflicted with leprosy seeks healing in order to be allowed back into normal society. Most of us don't want to be completely shunned by others! We want to belong to society even if we don't need to be the center of attention. So too the person with leprosy. He or she would want to become part of the community once again but it would be impossible for most of them. For a few, whatever disease afflicted them might disappear and they could be readmitted.
In the Gospel, a leper comes to Jesus and is cured. Jesus tells the leper not to tell others. That is impossible. The Gospel tells us that then Jesus begins to remain outside, in deserted places. That is to say, Jesus begins to live as most lepers lived: apart from others and in deserted places. It is almost as if Jesus trades place with the leper after he cures him.
Two challenges present themselves to us today. Am I willing to pray for the life of others and to ask God to cure them? Most of us Christians, followers of Jesus, are able to pray for others. But am I willing to offer my own life for the sake of another person? It is not just the healing of the other person, but am I willing to take on the form of a slave, as was Jesus?
Am I willing to become outcast from all others so that another person can be accepted once more within the human community? Am I willing not to seek my own benefit but that of the many, that they may be saved? This is the teaching of the First Letter to the Corinthians in the second reading today.
To follow Jesus and to ask the healing presence of Jesus is not about doing good without a cost! Instead, I must be willing to give up my life for others, as did our Lord Jesus. There is no life in Christ without being willing to give up my life. There is always a cost to following Jesus. Yet we know that if we give all, He also will give us all in His Kingdom. Praise God forever!
Readings of the day:
First Reading: Leviticus 13.1-2, 45-46
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 10.31 - 11.1
Gospel: Mark 1.40-45
Reflections are available for the following Sundays: