A leper came to him and kneeling down begged him and said, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched the leper, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.” The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean. Then, warning him sternly, he dismissed him at once. Then he said to him, “See that you tell no one anything, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them.” The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter. He spread the report abroad so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly. He remained outside in deserted places, and people kept coming to him from everywhere. (Mark 1:40-45)
The leper in today’s scripture was healed by Jesus for a number of reasons. Because healing showed the loving compassion of Jesus, healing brought the leper back to the fuller community, healing was a reward for the leper’s faith.
At the very heart of the gospel is the conviction that whatever divides us lessens us and that we are never complete until we are united with one another. Now to live in a world without divisions, without barriers, may seem impossible at the present time.
There are those who encourage us to exclude, to build division, to become more isolated, to turn inward and feed our innermost fears.
Every responsible Christian needs to stop and reflect on divisiveness and exclusion. Why?
Because the ministry of Jesus was always concerned with reconciliation, with bringing people together. This is why Jesus in today’s gospel heals the leper, not simply to remove the disease but to remove the barrier, so that the leper might again join the community.
Jesus knows that it’s all too easy to take necessary barriers and turn them into convenient prejudices.
Jesus understands that it’s all too easy to take the fear of a real enemy and allow it to exclude someone who looks like an enemy.
Jesus realizes that every time we identify a particular person or group within society and use that identification to push that person away, we are playing a dangerous game.
Each time we exclude someone because of race or religion, because of sexual orientation or appearance, we are working against the kingdom of God
When we work against the kingdom, we are in fact working against our own best interests.
Even in those circumstances where we must accept divisions within the community, the gospel always regrets and mourns those barriers and longs for the time when they might be erased.
Sometimes we imagine that we can separate ourselves from others without any consequence or danger to ourselves. Sometimes we might think that we can divide ourselves from those who are different with impunity. But the gospel warns us about setting up such barriers too casually. The gospel understands that when we choose to build walls, they are just as likely to hurt us as to protect us.
It is a myth to think that we are better off alone, separated from others. We all inhabit the same planet, and the life of each person is interwoven with the lives of others in one great tapestry of life. Whenever we choose to pull out a particular thread of that tapestry, we begin to unravel the whole cloth.
There may indeed be times when dividing ourselves from others is necessary, but Christians always regret and mourn such barriers, because we know that they are not part of the ultimate plan of God.
That is why we continually commit ourselves to reconciliation, to forgiveness, and to building unity. We above all others should know that whenever we choose to divide ourselves from one another, we do so at our own risk.
Inclusion, not exclusion, is the teaching of Christ. Reaching out, not turning inward, is the teaching of Christ. Union, not disunity, is the teaching of Christ. Speaking words of comfort and love, not words of hatred, is the teaching of Christ.
Living in hope, not fear, is the way of Jesus Christ.
Prayer of The Day
“Lord Jesus, inflame my heart with your love and make me clean and whole in body, mind, and spirit. May I never doubt your love nor cease to tell others of your mercy and compassion.”
Christ came into this world to present us with a new and challenging vision of ourselves and of others. It is not new to say that we need others. But it is new to say that we need every other, because every other is a part with us in the same body. And this body is not the body practical, or the body political, or the body commercial. It is the Body of Christ.