A person for others

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

February 11, 2024 – Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Mark 1:40-45

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One of the most feared ailments in the time of Jesus was leprosy. It was a contagious condition and was widespread. Lepers had to live in locales outside populated areas. There was no known cure for it although perhaps some recovered from it on their own. Perhaps it was felt that some kind of magic was at play in their healing.  

One day Jesus met a leper who asked him to be cured. Maybe the reputation of Jesus as a healer was known. Jesus cured the man’s ailment. Jesus told him to go to the local religious authority to have the cure verified. That was the custom of the time.

Then Jesus told him not to tell others and for good reason. If word spread that Jesus could cure leprosy, and perhaps other undesirable conditions, he would be overrun by those seeking his help. He did not want to be known simply as a miracle worker. As the narrative unfolds, we learn that the cured man couldn’t keep quiet. Then “people kept coming to him from everywhere.” Jesus slipped out of town. He did not want that kind of popularity.

The primary mission of Jesus was to teach people about God and how to live according to God’s intent. We learn elsewhere in the gospels that Jesus emphasized two great commandments: To love God with all one’s strength and to love one’s neighbor as oneself.

In other words, the religious message of Jesus was not to get, but to give. Being a follower of Jesus should not be based simply on what we get out of it. While being a disciple is rooted in the self, it is not a self-serving reality, but rather is focused on others. First on God and God’s love for us in creating and sustaining us each day. And then on helping others.

Ignatian spirituality is often summarized on our being “a person for others.” This is how we imitate Jesus. Our prayer life should not be a series of requests for ourselves, but rather we should pray for the good of others, especially in the spirit of Pope Francis, who reminds us to attend especially to the needs of the poor.

In another part of the gospel Jesus tells of a time when ten lepers were cured. But only one thanked God for this miracle. The rest, we can assume, were so wrapped up in their own needs being met that they failed to thank the one who healed them. They no longer connected with the One who is the source of all that is good.


David M. Thomas, PhD     

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