Unclean

Today’s first Mass reading contains the instructions from Leviticus for dealing with people suffering from leprosy.  Such persons were to be declared unclean, forced to live apart from the community.

What doubtless was intended as merely a way to quarantine persons with a communicable illness from those who were healthy, became something else.  Rather than a temporary quarantine while contagious, sufferers were permanently isolated from community.  Worse, physical illness came to be seen as moral illness.  (Interestingly, if you look up synonyms for unclean, the second one to appear is “morally wrong.”)

Jesus acts differently.  In today’s Gospel, when approached by a leper, Jesus touches him, and heals him from his illness.  He doesn’t just heal him from his physical malady, his touch removes the isolation, the separation.

Who are we like today.   We may not point our fingers and shout “unclean,” but think of how many people assume material poverty to be a sign of moral failing.

Are we like those who isolated the lepers – if not physically isolating certain people and groups – seeing them as different and removed from us?  Or like Jesus, reaching out out hands in healing and love?

 

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