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LORD IF YOU ARE WILLING, YOU CAN CLEANSE ME: A reflection for the 6th Sunday Ord. Time, Year B.
By Fr. Donatus Okeke
Sun, 11 Feb 2018

1st: Leviticus 13:1-2.44-46
2nd: 1Corinthians 10:31-11:1
Gospel: Mark 1:40-45

Jesus came to proclaim liberation to the poor and the abandoned. This is confirmed through his teachings, healing and miracles. In his mission manifesto, Jesus announced that he has been sent to proclaim the Goodnews to the poor, to liberate the captives and declare the year of the Lord's favor (Luke 4:18). Last Sunday, Jesus showed his concern for the suffering humanity. He healed Simon's mother in-law and the many others who were sick and expelled evil spirits (Mark 1:29-39). Today, Jesus continues with his mission of alleviating our sufferings. He heals a leper.

Leprosy in the earliest times, was considered a dangerous disease. It was seen as such because it was so contagious and had no cure. The life of the leper was a miserable one. In the Jewish society, it was a socio-religious taboo. The leper was to be sent away from his family and community. He became an outcast. He was cut off from the worshipping community. The Jewish law forbade one from touching a leper. Anyone who has contact with a leper, automatically became unclean. Should the leper have any reason to be seen in public, he must wear bell to notify people by announcing "unclean! unclean!" Though a physical disease, it was seen by the Jews as a result of grave sin -some sort of punishment for sin. Due to this severe condition, most of them preferred to die than live under such conditions.

The First Reading speak of the prescriptions towards those who suffer from leprosy in the Jewish society. The priest has to pronounce a leper unclean. Jesus in the Gospel showed that he was different from these priests whose duty were to pronounce unclean and ostracize the leper. On his own part, he pronounced the love and mercy of God. He did not isolate the leper but, rather showed him love and brought him back to his community.

"If you will, you can make me clean."These were the beautiful words of the man with leprosy to Jesus while on his knees. Our prayers of supplication should be a display of faith and courage. Remember that it was the man who took the initiative. He moved to Jesus, thereby violating their custom. This could be seen as a courageous act. We must learn this display of courageous faith from the man who suffers from leprosy.

He equally has shown us the best way to pray. When we pray we do not command God to do our wish. We rather tell him our intentions and allow him to act, if it suits him. We must always pray as Christ often prayed, "Father, let thy will be done".

Like this leper, we must make ourselves available  for Jesus to restore us back to the community. We in one way the other, ostracize ourselves from the community of believers when we sin. Mortal Sin blocks us from joining others to partake in the Holy Eucharist. God does not ostracize us, rather we do. Let us make good use of the sacrament of Reconciliation.

"Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, "I will, be clean. "
Jesus was moved with compassion. He pitied the condition of this man and thus healed him. Through this healing, we feel the great compassion of God towards his creatures. Let us not easily forget this fact.
Jesus first stretched his hands and touched the leper. This act is unthinkable. This is because, Jesus could as well be declared unclean or seen as someone disobeying the law. Jesus did not mind these. Thus, to bring help to outcasts, Jesus makes himself an outcast. We see in the personality of Jesus, a desire to reach out to those the society rejects. He wants everyone to feel belonged. With his touch on the leper, the leper went back as a free  man, no longer as an outcast.

Jesus by extending his hands and touching the man seemed to have violated the law. Yes! Human life first. But, Jesus did not relax it all. He had to send the man to the priest in accordance with the law.
Beloved in Christ, we need to extend our hands  to the leper (outcast) around us as Christ did. In some Igbo soceities, some widows, barren women, women without a male child, all suffer serious rejection. It is shameful that some societies still observe the "osu-caste" system. The aged, those with terminal sickness, those with physical and mental disabilities, HIV/AIDS, the poor, sinner and others of such are all lepers of today. Let us help to bring them back to the community.
May God help us!!!


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