2 Kings 25:1-12
In today’s Gospel Jesus cures the man afflicted with leprosy. In the gospels, miracles are signs of the reign of God overcoming the reign of Satan. This particular miracle is especially poignant. A person with leprosy must live outside of the cities. They must carry a bell to warn travelers not to come closer than six feet. They had to shout "unclean, unclean." Their appearances were prescribed. Their hair was to be disheveled. Their clothing was to be ragged. Their mouths were to be covered. The average death from leprosy was nine years, but some lived with it for twenty to thirty years.
What is evident in this miracle story is that the man with leprosy had great faith. He was willing to break the laws and enter the city to meet Jesus. He was humble. He did not ask that his leprosy be cured! He said: "If it is your will, let me be made clean!" He paid Jesus homage. The word used here for "homage" is the same word used for "reverencing the gods!" He was a man of faith. He was humble. He was reverent.
This miracle is another example of Jesus’ compassionate heart. This is most evident because Jesus was not only willing to hold a conversation with this petitioner, but Jesus also reached out and touched him. The man was cured. He was restored to his community. Jesus’ heart was so impressed by this gentleman’s faith that Jesus was willing to break the codes prescribed by law. Jesus reached out and touched the man.
Robert Louis Stevenson was visiting a leprosarium staffed by sisters. He said to one of the sisters: "I wouldn’t do what you are doing for a million dollars!" She replied: "Neither would I." Mother Theresa of Calcutta use to tell her sisters: "When we help the poor we must feed, cloth, and heal the poor. But never forget, when you are helping the poor you must touch the poor!" This gospel story challenges us to touch the poor, to touch those no one else wants to touch. The compassionate Christian heart calls us to it.
Fr. Kenneth O’Malley, C.P. is the archivist at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.