As we gather on this, the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, both the first reading and the Gospel deal with the illness of leprosy, not exactly the subject we hoped to hear about on Valentine’s Day.
In Jesus’ day the word leprosy was used for a broad range of skin conditions. Some of these diseases had no cure and others were simple skin rashes or a boil. Some were highly communicable, so lepers were required to live in isolation and were told how to dress and act. The Old Testament has several accounts of God afflicting people with leprosy as punishment, so people tended to interpret that as a punishment for sin. Therefore this disease had many dimensions: medical, religious, social, and financial. The illness made people unable to work and this reduced them to begging. So you can see what a horrible situation this was.
The leper, in the Gospel, found courage to approach Jesus, not with the words, “unclean, unclean,” but with “If you wish, you can make me clean.” Already excluded from society, he risked also being excluded from this miracle worker. Jesus, moved with pity, not only did not drive him away, He reached out and touched him. Even before the leprosy left him, just that touch changed him. Jesus broke physical, religious, and social boundaries, consciously and deliberately. He restored the leper to the community making him whole once again.
As members of the Body of Christ, it is now up to us to break through these barriers. With the COVID-19 epidemic, we too are in isolation and socially distant from one another. In spite of that, we can call on the phone, text one another, Zoom, go to the store for others, give to the food pantries, wear masks, help with their taxes, show people where they can participate in the Mass on T.V. or the computer, pray for one another, and many other ways to show, even when apart, we care for others.
Maybe these readings today, on Valentine’s Day, are pretty good after all. We are called to be the face of love, healing, comfort, and affirmation, especially to those who we can not meet in person.
Love, Peace, Joy,
Don’t forget, Lent begins three days from now. On Ash Wednesday, a season of preparation to celebrate the paschal mystery with hearts and minds renewed. We are invited to greater prayer, fasting, and charitable sharing.