Throughout history, no sickness has been linked with more superstition, fear and error than leprosy.
In many ways, Christ, in this Gospel reading had worked his first miracle, even before the leper was healed, simply by reaching out and touching the man. In place of disgust, Christ put compassion. The real manifestation of God’s power in this is not that one sick person is made healthy, but rather is the fact that a person universally held to be repulsive, unlovable, even evil, is in fact loved, is the object of God’s mercy and compassion.
We still have lepers close by – people who, for one reason or another, are defined by their condition and not treated as people: the homeless, the unattractive, many diseased, the feeble of spirit and mind. Through a shaming mixture of sympathy and revulsion, pity and horror, relief and superiority, we boldly mark the limits of what we take to be acceptably human.
Perhaps we need to remind ourselves also that we ourselves are often, in one way or another, inwardly leprous. We must decide what particular leprosy is calling to be healed here and now in our personal lives and in the life of our community.
In today’s Second Reading, St Paul’s Imitation of Christ could well be our personal programme of life, if Christ becomes the principle and pattern of our transformation.
In being conformed to him, we must each discover and realise our own unique identities as persons, and be healed of sinful dispositions that obstruct the flourishing of our true selves. Only an inexhaustibly rich image of God who did things like today’s miracle could constitute the principle and pattern for the transformation and fulfilment of every human person who has ever lived.
The more we become like Christ, the more surely do we discover the best of our true selves.
Let us, like Jesus himself, ask what our Heavenly Father would want us to do in the face of the unattractive or unpopular and like Jesus face the risks to do it. Fr Andrew