Jesus was on his way to the synagogue to teach. In rout a man afflicted with leprosy fell on his knees with reverence, deference and sincerity he addressed Jesus and asked that he might be cleaned. His response was that “If Jesus wanted to heal him he could.” Jesus then asked him directly. “Do you believe that I could do this?” His answer was “Yes I believe that you can.” Usually leprosy was a terminal illness. This man knew that this was his fate. It was obvious to Jesus this man had already suffered because of his leprosy. It was not only leprosy that caused him his greatest suffering. It was also whatever his “uncleanness” was also a source of suffering. Persons afflicted with leprosy suffered physically, emotionally, and spiritually. People with leprosy are forced to leave his wife, his children, family and friends.
What impressed Jesus was that this man was different. He was extraordinary because he didn’t ask for his leprosy to be removed; but something even more serious caused his suffering. It was his being “unclean.” Jesus was touched. He reached out and blessed this man.This was the same suffering Jesus experience at the tomb of his friend Lazarus.
This passage in Mark reminds us that when we pray we always preface our petitions with “If you will!” This is how Jesus on Gethsemane began His prayer to the Father. This is also the same prayer the man with leprosy prefaced his prayer to Jesus.
Fr. Ken O’Malley, C.P., is a member of the Passionist Community at Sacred Heart Monastery in Louisville, Kentucky.