Scripture Readings: Leviticus 13.1-2, 44-46; 1 Corinthians 10.31-11.1; Mark 1.40-45
“A leper came to Jesus, imploring him urgently and kneeling as he spoke, “If you will, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched the man. “I will. Be made clean.” – Mark 1.40-41
The leper in Sunday’s gospel brings to his encounter with Jesus an attitude of profound need and expectant hope. Lepers in Jesus’ time and until our century lived their lives apart from other people.
Like so many other grounds for making people outsiders, leprosy shows visibly on the body. Race, gender, and age also show in our bodies. Poverty usually shows, too, in missing teeth and listless faces. On the basis of body appearance, communities establish boundaries between inside and outside.
Now the pandemic fills our news with heart-breaking obituaries of janitors and celebrities, doctors and grocery workers. To prevent COVID from spreading, we wear masks and keep distances. We experience firsthand fear of contagion and the necessity of distance. The pandemic has hit the black community hardest, making redlining and health disparities visible in our midst.
The voices of the poor and powerless, like the leper’s voice, call for inclusion in society. In Israel’s earliest traditions, it is the voices of slaves crying out against their masters that God hears and sends Moses to free. It is the voices of those left out who call us to widen our tents and tables.
In asking for justice and equality, people express their dignity as human beings made in God’s image and likeness. They give voice to God’s purpose for us all — wholeness, a community of love on earth that mirrors the divine community of love that is God.
What boundaries among people exist in your neighborhood or parish? With whom might you build a bridge from isolation to participation in economic life, parish life, or family life?