Our Gospel this week gives us one of the great scenes of healing in the ministry of Jesus, and as is usually the case, the Gospel writer composes the scene in such a way that it becomes an icon of the spiritual life in general. In our sickness, our weakness, our shame, our sin, our oddness—lots of us feel like this leper. And once we’ve been healed by the Lord, we feel the obligation to tell the world about it.
The strange and unsettling Gospel account of the leper approaching Jesus is the manifestation of the deeply held notions of purity and impurity, notions that were uprooted by the God who entered into every part of our human condition to heal it and make it whole. In the Gospel and today, healing incites a mission. We, like the leper, must share how the encounter with Christ has changed our lives.
The leper in Mark’s gospel, a feared presence to the ancient Israelites, is made clean by Jesus’ benevolent touch. A connection is formed, to each other, to God, that reminds us all of the comforting power of communion, the healing nature of our Creator.
In our Gospel for today, a leper comes to Jesus and asks to be healed. He is suffering, not only from a physical malady, but from ritual uncleanness, rendering him incapable of worship. Jesus the Messiah has come to gather the scattered tribes of Israel to the worship of the true God and so he reaches out to the leper. That same Christ seeks to gather so many of us who have wandered away from the worship of the true God.
In our second reading, St. Paul tells us to do everything–even such simple acts as eating and drinking–for the glory of God. We should make sure that the light shines, not on us, but on God. And here’s the wonderful paradox: since God needs nothing, whatever we give to him comes back magnified to us. This is why the saints shine with a special radiance, a luminosity greater than anything they could have produced on their own.
Jesus seeks out even the unclean and the despised. Whenever we wander from God’s love, we become deformed; whenever an aspect of ourselves–mind, will, body, imagination–loses its connection to the Lord, it becomes sick. To be clean is to be reconnected to the power of Christ the Center.