I don’t know about you, but when I read the passage from the 13th chapter of the Book of Leviticus I felt eerily uncomfortable because it reminded me all too much about the various restrictions we have been facing globally in dealing with the Covid-19 virus. Leprosy was a terrible disease at the time Leviticus was being composed, one that could destroy an entire tribe or community of people, just like Covid-19. It was something that was protected against by distancing one person from another, family member from family member, just like Covid-19. And, if one was exposed in one way or another to the virus, it became only too clear that the right thing to do was to quarantine yourself and no longer be a part of the family or body of friends and associates for their sake even if it did mean being cut off and alone, just like Covid-19. And the poor soul with leprosy was commanded to “muffle his beard” (assuming it was a man, of course.) And so, all of us in this Covid19 time are muffling even more than our beards but our faces from nose to chin, and now even double muffling! And while we may cope with this terrible pandemic with a little humor, there is nothing funny about it at all. And it was not funny at the time of Leviticus, which was written about five centuries before the birth of Jesus. But one thing is for sure, the contrast between our first reading from Leviticus and the great mercy of Jesus in curing the man with leprosy could not be clearer.
Imagine the scene, if you will. Jesus is standing there and the poor man with leprosy sees him. The scriptures tell us that he came to Jesus and, kneeling down, begged him, saying, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” Jesus response to this special man was nothing less than complete and total compassion: “I do will it. Be made clean.” With the simple touch of the Master’s hand, this once isolated and shunned soul is now able to be a part of family, synagogue, community, and society once again. I do will it. Be made clean! What a glorious moment! What joy and wonder.
Today, and perhaps every day this week, come before the Lord as the leper did. Kneel before him and open your heart to the Lord. Tell him what you most want to pray for. Ask him to bless you and all the world. And then hear him as he says, “I do will it.” Then just trust in his healing presence and mercy. It is there for us all.
Fr. Pat Brennan, C.P. is the director of Saint Paul of the Cross Passionist Retreat and Conference Center, Detroit, Michigan.