The gospel account of the leper healed by Jesus (Mark 1:40-45) presents a picture of what we as Christians should be as reborn and reconciled believers. In our on-going meditation on Jesus Christ, we discover that it is in his power and in his compassion that we find our salvation.
IN the ancient world leprosy condemns a person among the living dead. For the Jews, it and other skin diseases were seen as scourge from God and rendered a person unclean and unfit for life in community with others. The strict quarantine imposed to protect others meant the leper must be excluded from society, branded and ostensibly segregated, announcing at the sight of anyone else his/her wretched state. In the gospel account, it was surprisingly bold of the leper to approach Jesus. Clearly, the leper was ready to do whatever it takes to get out of his miseries, disregarding taboos.
Jesus himself was amazingly daring, letting the leper get near him and entering into an exchange with him. Moved with pity, Jesus even stretched out his hand and touched the leper to heal him. In his loving mercy, Jesus often disregarded human taboos, actually welcoming and even seeking out the repugnant outcasts and the forsaken ones of society like a good shepherd searching for the lost sheep. It was not a sentimental pity Jesus had for the man, but a form of “anger” inasmuch as leprosy was then associated with sin as being somehow demon-caused, and so healing often involved exorcism. That is why Jesus is described as “warning him sternly, he dismissed him at once”—as in casting demons away. With the evil spirit authoritatively driven out of the man, the leprosy is said also to have “left him immediately.”
Believing, healed, witnessing
Apparently aware of the happenings and the news around him in connection with the mighty deeds of Jesus, the initial faith and hope of the leper in Jesus emboldened him to break through the wall segregating him from the rest of the living and to connect personally with the one who can give him new life. His words to Jesus: “If you wish, you can make me clean” reveal his startling confidence in Jesus, who responded to this profession of faith with his creative words: “I do will it. Be made clean.” The love of Jesus cannot not respond to anyone calling upon him.
The man healed was told not to tell anyone anything, but to go and report to the authorities for the official verification of his cure leading to his readmission into the community. The miraculous healing was like a window of light through which the “secret” of Jesus penetrated the man’s consciousness. He could not possibly have kept his mouth shut in such as overwhelmingly joy-filled development in his life. His very person as healed and reborn and his presence alone would have shouted the miracle abroad, a testimony to Jesus, an invitation to others to believe in him. The erstwhile leper made the story, the word about Jesus, public, “proclaiming” it as the first Christians, the early Church, would irrepressibly proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.
Alálaong bagá, the former leper is a symbol of the believer, coming into contact with Jesus, purified from the leprosy of sin and reclaimed from death, and restored to a life of communion with God and with others. Healed, reborn and reconciled, the Christian proclaims in joy the good news of salvation personally experienced. Touched by Jesus, such a person is never the same again. Liberated from the forces of evil, the follower of Jesus becomes a witness to him, testifying by one’s life that Jesus is the Savior.
Can it be said that in 500 years of Christianity enough Filipinos have already come into personal contact with Jesus and touched by him have been freed from repugnant disorders? Though some have been healed and reconciled, we realize that evil in many forms is still very much at home among us. Evangelization and conversion to Jesus is clearly as urgent as ever. What joy in Jesus have we ourselves been proclaiming to the world and to one another by our lives? Are we healed (or healing) and witnessing?
Join me in meditating on the Word of God every Sunday, from 5 to 6 a.m. on DWIZ 882, or by audio streaming on www.dwiz882.com.