1) Opening prayer
You have made known the birth of the Savior
by the light of a star.
May He continue to guide us with the light,
for He lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - Luke 5:12-16
It happened that there was a man full of leprosy in one of the towns where Jesus was; and when he saw Jesus, he fell prostrate, pleaded with him, and said, "Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean." Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, "I do will it. Be made clean." And the leprosy left him immediately. Then he ordered him not to tell anyone, but "Go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them." The report about him spread all the more, and great crowds assembled to listen to him and to be cured of their ailments, but he would withdraw to deserted places to pray.
• A leper came close to Jesus. He had to live far away from others, because whoever touched him remained impure! But that leper had great courage. He transgressed the norms of religion so as to be able to get close to Jesus. He said, “Sir, if You want, You can heal me!”That is to say, “It is not necessary for You to touch me.” It is sufficient for the Lord to want it, and He cured him! The sentence reveals two evils: a) the evil of leprosy which renders him impure; b) the evil of isolation, to which he was condemned by society and by religion. This also reveals the man’s great faith in the power of Jesus. Jesus, profoundly moved, heals him from both evils! In the first place, to cure the isolation, He touches the leper. It is as if He said, “For Me you are not excluded. I accept you as a brother!” And then He cures the leper saying, "I do will it. Be made clean."
• The leper, in order to be able to enter in contact with Jesus, had transgressed the norms of the law. Jesus also, in order to be able to help that excluded man and reveal to him a new face of God, transgresses the norms of His religion and touches the leper. At that time, whoever touched a leper became impure according to the religious authority and by the law of the time.
• Jesus, not only cures, but also wants the cured person to be able to live with others. He once again inserts the person in society so that he can live together with others. At that time for a leper to be accepted again in the community, he needed a certificate from a priest, that he had been cured. It is the same today. The sick person leaves the hospital having a document signed by the doctor. Jesus obliges the person to go and look for the document, so that he can live normally with the others. He obliges the authority to recognize that this man has been cured.
• Jesus forbids the leper to speak about the healing. The Gospel of Mark informs us that this prohibition was not effective and went unheeded. The leper went away, but then started freely proclaiming and telling the story everywhere, so that Jesus could no longer go openly into any town, but stayed outside in deserted places (Mk 1:45) Why? Jesus had touched a leper. For this reason, according to the opinion of the religion of the time, now He Himself was impure and should be far away from everybody. He could no longer enter into the cities. Mark says that the people did not care at all about these official norms, in fact, people came to Him from all parts (Mk 1:45).
• The two-fold message which Luke and Mark give the community of their time and to all of us is the following: a) to announce the Good News means to give witness of the concrete experience that one has of Jesus. What does the leper announce? He tells the others the good that Jesus has done to him. That is all! All this! This is the witness which impels others to accept the Good News of God, that brought by Jesus. b) In order to take the Good News to people, it is necessary to not be afraid to transgress the religious norms which are contrary to God’s project and which render communication, dialogue and the lived experience of love difficult, even if this implies difficulty for the people, as happened with Jesus.
4) Personal questions
• In order to help the neighbor, Jesus transgresses the law of purity. In the Church today, are there any laws which render difficult or prevent the practice of love toward neighbor?
• In order to be cured, the leper had the courage to challenge the public opinion of his time. Do I have such courage?
• Do I treat the homeless on the street as a leper? Think of all the times. Do I reach out and hold a hand, or give a hug, or do I cross the street or pretend they aren't there?
• Jesus gave what the leper needed, not a donation or some money. When I am asked for help, do I take the time to give the help that is needed to “cure” the problem, or do I offer some token donation (if at all) and just keep walking?
5) Concluding prayer
Praise Yahweh, Jerusalem, Zion, praise your God.
For He gives strength to the bars of your gates,
He blesses your children within you. (Ps 147:12-13)