In the first Mass reading for today, from Leviticus, the instruction is given that those with leprosy shall be declared unclean and “shall dwell apart, making [their] abode outside the camp.” Then, in the Gospel, Jesus heals a leper, declaring him clean.
When Jesus heals the leper, he does more than simply heal his physical illness. More important than the physical healing is the healing brought by the restoration to the community of one who had been forced to “dwell apart.”
Solidarity, a basic principle of Catholic Social Thought, recognizes that a basic element of human existence is interdependence and relationship; living as human means living in community. In Christian terms, human life is fulfilled in communion with others and with God. In speaking to pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square, Pope John Paul II once explained that “God is not solitude but perfect communion. … From God, who is communion, derives the vocation of the whole of humanity to form one great family.”
The setting apart of the leper deprives him of that which he needs to live a fully human life. Jesus’ healing gives him back more than his physical health. It brings him back to communion, back to the community.