6th Sunday in Ordinary time
Leviticus 13: 1-2; 44-46
1 Corinthians 10: 31-11:1
Mark 1: 40-45
Leviticus lays out clearly the laws that are to be followed. The person with leprosy is declared unclean and placed outside the town, alone and abandoned. We might wonder if they can ever again be filled with the joy of salvation as our psalm response has us pray today.
By contrast, we have in the Gospel the very different response of Jesus towards the leper. Given the thinking in the culture about how lepers should be treated, it means that the action of Jesus would have sent shock waves through the community. Jesus, by touching the leper, has effectively made himself unclean. It places him outside the camp! The fact that Mark places this miracle in the first chapter of his Gospel sets the scene for Jesus’ mission. I wonder if that is why Jesus exhorted the leper to ‘say nothing’ but do what the law required by showing himself to the priest and making the offering prescribed. The event would have created a scandal, but it also evoked curiosity. We are told that ‘people from all around would come to him.’
In our own times, we see on a daily basis how some people are harshly judged and placed ‘outside’ by law-abiding citizens who carry prejudices that judge some as inferior with no right to belong and who are condemned to lives of misery. Jesus took on himself the uncleanness of the leper, which led to his exclusion from towns.
The mission of Jesus, set in this first chapter of Mark, was to take him into many places of risk. However, he was always guided by the Spirit and always acted with compassion. His was a mission of inclusion, and no one is outside of his reach. Paul, in the letter to the Corinthians, also exhorts his community to recognise that salvation is for all. In our own times, Pope Francis is sharing this same message that the Church is for everyone, and all are welcome. I am reminded of something Fr Tony Egar often said in the lead-in to praying the ‘Our Father’, which is about expanding the ‘our’ to include those on the edges of our consciousness. So perhaps today and this week, we can be more conscious of those who are excluded, bring them inside and hold them in love and prayer.
Sr. Brigid Murphy CP
Sisters of the Cross & Passion,