Friday, 9 February 2018



Last Sunday we heard of Jesus freeing a man from a disturbing unclean spirit.  When other people could not help him Jesus, with a sharp command, was able to cure him.     This frenzied individual was henceforth enabled to live an ordinary life with other people. News of this spread rapidly. People were amazed that Jesus had the power to do such a thing so effortlessly. 

After this crowds  sought out Jesus for Him to heal them. Many even took the trouble to bring the sick to Jesus, as well as those possessed by unclean spirits. Some were healed merely by touching Him. This was exciting, sensational.

This Sunday we are told of a leper approaching Jesus. Such people with their ugly, much feared, skin ailments, were obliged to keep their distance from everyone else .  To keep others clear  these outcasts had to shake a warning bell vigorously or shout loudly ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ Or carry placards inscribed with warning words.  Can you imagine anything more  humiliating?

Those who touched a leper were judged  to be contaminated…unclean; from that moment  they were required to keep away from all healthy people. This was fair enough in  the days of  Jesus and for centuries afterwards.  They did not have the medicines of modern times. Such skin ailments were not understood. No-one had any answers.

In the light of all this it was outrageous for this bold-faced leper to get down on his knees before Jesus and to plead with Him, “If you want you, you can cure me.” Feeling sorry for him, Jesus had stretched out His hand and touched him, with the words, ‘Of course I want to heal you! Be cured!’”

If nothing had then happened Jesus, having touched the leper would have been judged to be contaminated. He would have been excluded from society. The whole of His ministry of preaching and healing would have come to an abrupt end.

   But in this  dramatic moment Jesus had cured the leper. His skin was clean. Jesus instructed him to have himself thoroughly examined by the priest. Once he was given a Bill of Health he would be entitled to go back to where he belonged… his friends and to his work.   Through this  healing Jesus had reconciled to the community one whose diseased skin   had  alienated him from it.

A parallel to this occurred when a paralyzed man was brought to Jesus in a most unusual way. Jesus was in a room packed with people. The only way He could be reached was by making a hole in the roof and lowering him down on his stretcher. This was certainly newsworthy but not nearly as much as what Jesus said when the man reached him. “My child, your sins are forgiven.”

 On hearing these words the reaction of the religious leaders, Scribes, was one of righteous indignation. Among themselves they accused Jesus of the most serious of all sins, blasphemy. “Who but God can forgive sins?”  But  Jesus  meant what He had said. The man’s sin had been forgiven. 

With just a few words Jesus had reconciled to God one who had been alienated from Him by his sins. Jesus had done for this man what only God could do…forgiven his sins. This was a favour, a blessing far, far, greater than anything else God could have done for him, for you, for me for anyone else.

I give you this just a few days before Lent – a few weeks of preparing ourselves to celebrate the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus. 

I ask you, I ask myself, who received the greater blessing from Jesus - the healed leper or the forgiven sinner. Which of these two persons would I, you, have preferred to be?  

We have a lot of time to sort this one out. Have a blessed Lent!

Peter Clarke, O.P.

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