Readings: Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46; Psalm 32; 1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1; Mark 1:40-45
All he wants is to belong. To be welcomed into the warm embrace of his family and friends, to be able to join his community in prayer on the Sabbath.
To have his life back again, the way it once was.
But all that had been taken away from him the day the priest pronounced him unclean, outcast, an exile.
We do not know his name, or anything at all about him. He is identified only by his affliction: he is a leper.
And his life must be lived at the margins of what had been his world.
He is forced, by law, to depend on the mercy of those who need to keep him at a distance. Unclean, he must cry out, and ring his bell, and watch the fear in the eyes of those who glance his way, perhaps in pity, perhaps in disgust.
And then the unimaginable happens.
Jesus passes by, on one of the first of his Galilean journeys of preaching and healing. And seeing him from the prescribed distance, the leper comes to understand that deliverance just may be at hand.
His desperation makes him bold, willing to risk the penalty of disobedience to the law of exclusion.
He approaches Jesus, kneels before him, urges him: “If you choose,” he says, “you can make me clean again.”
And Jesus, himself disobeying the same law, reaches out his hand and makes physical contact with the one who has not been allowed to touch another human in what seemed like forever.
“I do choose,” Jesus responds. “Be made clean.”
And the outcast one is healed and made whole again.
This is the story the Church presents to us on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday. It’s a story particularly meaningful for our time, when our world seems more divided than ever between “them” and “us.”
In the end, it’s a story about belonging.
And the question for us this day, as we anticipate our Lenten journey: who do we choose to allow in, and exclude from, our circle of caring?
Jesus, your dream was that we are all members of God’s family, belonging in love to you and one another. Help us make your dream our reality.
– Sister Mary E. Mc Cormick, SC
Sr. Mary is a spiritual and retreat director, writer, and presenter on topics of spirituality and the Charity charism. Currently the Congregation’s Novice/Vocation/Candidate Director, she has served in congregational leadership, formation ministry, education, and as a missionary in the Bahamas and in Arizona.
Image: Christ Healing a Leper, Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, c. 1650 – c. 1655
This is exactly why I love Jesus. Then it was the leper. Today we long to see Jesus with the homeless or the undocumented. He is there and it makes me feel better for them. Thanks Sr. Mary!
Mary, thank you for this clear, concise gospel reflection. Appreciated the brevity and message of belonging to the human family. Easy to remember!
Thank you for the reminder about belonging. Each of us wants to “belong” somewhere.
The challenge is to extend that sense of “belonging” to another, no matter how unattractive they might appear to be.
Thank you Mary for this opportunity you gave us to meditate on our coming journey of Lent and our longing for belonging…
“…who do we choose to allow in, and exclude from, our circle of caring? “
Thanks Mary for your meaningful reflection
Thanks for your meaningful words. that brought this scripture piece to life. God bless!Arlene