Being afflicted with leprosy is horrendous and debilitating in so many ways. The most obvious manifestation of this contagious disease might be the mucous membranes and the lumps appearing all over the lepers’ skin or in severe cases disfigurement and deformities of the limbs. As ghastly and no doubt painful as this side of leprosy is
today’s first reading and gospel shows us other ways leprosy debilitates.
The first reading from Leviticus details how the leper must yell out, “unclean, unclean”, when people pass by and how they must live apart from the rest of the community. The gospel details how a desperate leper falls to his knees and pleads to be cured from his physical pain and the pain of isolation. What’s Jesus’ reaction to this nameless leper? Does he recoil in disgust and self-preservation? Does Jesus pretend he didn’t see him? No! Jesus goes against every taboo and reaches out his hand to touch the leper. This touch does more than heal the leper from his physical affliction. Jesus’ healing hand also breaks down the barriers of isolation and brings the leper back to community and communion. In 2018 ‘leprosy’ comes in many different guises. What will our response be to someone with a modern form of this ancient affliction?