The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home
February 14, 2021 – Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Mark 1:40-45
Download this simple process to Prepare for Sunday using the Observe, Judge, Act Method.
One of the more dramatic miracles done by Jesus was his curing of lepers. One thing worth knowing is that references to “leprosy” in the gospels likely referred to a variety of skin diseases that were common in the time of Jesus. They were feared because first, they were usually visible and were also thought to be contagious. Healing did happen and there was a Jewish religious ritual to indicate that the person could safely rejoin the community. Additionally, some thought these skin diseases had not only natural causes, but were also a symptom of moral failure.
My guess is that Mark’s gospel includes this miracle of Jesus for many reasons. First, the nature of this condition was widely known. Villages had designated areas on their outskirts to keep “lepers” apart from the general population. That Jesus touched a leper in the process of curing him was, in itself, a remarkable gesture. In that sense, Jesus was not afraid of taking risks in helping others. (Think of today’s hospital staff serving victims of Covid-19) In other words, Jesus actively sought out those needing him.
One of the most interesting aspects of this gospel account is Jesus asking the cured “leper” not to tell anyone what had happened. We often come across this sort of reserve in Mark’s Gospel. Scholars call it “the messianic secret.” Initially, it seems odd that Jesus would ask for silence about himself and his wondrous deeds. Isn’t part of his mission and ministry to communicate the truth about himself?
So, a brief explanation is warranted. Yes, Jesus wanted to capture the attention of many. But for the right reason. He did not come to lead an army against the Romans. He did not come to put on a show for the multitudes. Rather, he came to show us how much God loves us and how to best respond to that love. He came to show us the nature of a generous life in the service of others. He came to teach us that it is in giving of ourselves when needed that we receive that deeper joy that comes only from God.
While human nature finds it hard to keep a good thing quiet (thus the leper told everyone of his good fortune), it’s important to show the real Jesus and his message. The four gospels each have their own account of Jesus, but they all agree on one event: the passion and death of Jesus. That’s to ensure that the right impression of Jesus is given.
©David M. Thomas, PhD