5. LEPERS ARE CLEANSED Liberated from marginalization

Created: Friday, 17 May 2013 Last Updated: Monday, 31 March 2014
5. LEPERS ARE CLEANSED
Liberated from marginalization

1. The passage of the leper’s healing (in Mathew, Mark and Luke) is short. It seems reduced to the essential. We don’t find in it large descriptions which, for instance, are present in Saint John’s passages of the Samaritan, of the man born blind or about Lazarus. This is perhaps the reason for which it is difficult to understand. Here are some of the queries:  What is understood as leper in the Bible?, which healings do we find?, does this Gospel passage take place today?, under which situations?
2. Under the name of leprosy diverse sores of the skin are included in the Bible (Lv 13). They can be as different as the leper itself, the erysipelas that goes with an ulcer, the infection following a burn, the ringworm of the scalp and of the chin, or the eruption with pus. The possibility of the sickness to be cured in seven days (13, 4) indicates that not only the leper is the matter treated. The same term is applied even to the mould in dresses and on the walls (13, 47 - 59 and 14, 33 – 57). Endemic sickness, owing to the lack of hygienic and sanitary conditions, also appears as a God punishment (Ex 9, 4 – 12; Dt 28, 27; 2 R 15, 5) In the parabola of the rich man and the poor Lazar, the rich is condemned because his lack of compassion towards the poor, covered with sores (Lk 16, 19 – 31)
3.  Being whichever it could be in each case the type of leprosy, severe measures were taken to avoid infection. The leper ought to announce it with his look, to proclaim it, to remain at distance and to live alone or with other lepers outside the city: “A person infected with leprosy must wear torn clothing and leave his hair uncombed; he must cover his upper lip and cry: Unclean, unclean!. As long as the disease lasts he will remain unclean. He is unclean and he  must live alone; outside the camp he will have his room” (Lv 13, 45-46).
4. In the Bible we find diverse healings. In the synagogue of Nazaret Jesus mentions one of them. “There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha, the prophet, and no one was healed except Naaman, the Syrian” (Lk 4, 27). In this case the sick man is healed washing himself seven times in the Jordan river (2 R 5, 9). Mary, Moses´ sister is healed in seven days, under Moses mediation (Nm 12, 14). Jesus heals a leper in Galilee (Mk 1, 40 – 45) and to ten in his way to Jerusalem (Lk 17, 11- 18); only one of them, a Samaritan, comes back to glorify God. In Betania Jesus sits the leper on Simon’s table (Mk 14, 3), perhaps cured by him.
5. In any case, the illness must be medically confronted. It is common sense: “Then consult the doctor, you need him” (Eclo 38, 12). The sickness is evil, it is bad to be sick. So, Jesus passes by healing. It is not a God´s necessary punishment, as Job’s friends believe (Jb 5, 17 – 18). It is something inherent to human condition: “Seventy years to our life or eighty if we are strong” (Psalm 90).
6. In Cornelius´ home, Peter sums up Jesus´ mission: “He went about doing good things and healing all who were under the devil’s power, because God was with him” (Acts 10, 38). We have here an important key: God goes by healing in Jesus´ mission. The same is said in Saint Luke’s evangel: “The power of the Lord was at work to heal the sick” (Lk 5, 17). The same acknowledges Nicodemo talking with Jesus: “No one can perform miraculous signs like yours unless God is with him” (Jn 3, 2).
7. Jesus taught with authority (Mt 7, 29), teaches and heals, says and makes: “Jesus went all over Galilee, teaching in the synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom and curing all kinds of sickness and disease among the people” (Mt 4, 23). In Saint Mathew’s evangel, the healing of the leper appears after the Beatitudes (Mt 5-7), That who has authority over the Law (“you have heard that it was said, but I say to you”, also has authority over the sickness, even over the leprosy (Mt 8, 1 – 4).
8. Jesus´ mission presents this signal announced by the prophets: “the lepers are made clean” (Mt 11, 5). The passage of the leper healing has a permanent value. It is valid for today too. Let’s see Saint Luke’s (Lk 5, 12 – 16) account: “One day in another town, a leper came to Jesus. Bowing down to the ground the leper said: Lord, if you want to, you can make me clean” (5, 12). Being in a city, a leper goes before him, it is to say, someone who – according to the Law- must live out of the town, out of the society. And, nevertheless, he presents himself in the town, before Jesus. At the end, he has understood what Jesus means, more than the Law and more than the sickness. He knows that his life’s own destiny lies in Jesus will.
9. It is said in Saint Mark evangel that Jesus pitied him (Mk 1, 41). Nevertheless, some old manuscripts present this version: “he became angry”. ¿How can this be explained? Let’s see such situation. When Jesus heals a Saturday the man with a withered hand, he becomes angry with the Pharisees who were spying him (Mk 3, 5). Here he also makes something that is forbidden by Law (Lv 5, 3), he touches the leper: Jesus stretched out his hands, touched him and said: I do will it. Be clean. And his leprosy was cleansed immediately (Lk 5, 13). Jesus goes beyond the Law and, even beyond risk. He can be accused by his adversaries. Touching the sick man, he heals him; he introduces him into the communion and into the community.
10. And he ordered him not to tell anyone. And he added: Go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them (5, 14; see Lv 13, 49 and 14, 1 – 32). It is necessary to exert caution and discretion. The adversaries are watching. The man cured must be declared clean, according to the Law. It is to say, he must be discharged. And the priests must receive proper proof of it. Will they receive it? Will it serve them?
11. A crowd usually went to hear him and to be healed of their sickness. But he retired to the lonely places to pray (Lk 5, 15 – 16). For the people, what happened is really surprising. What seemed impossible becomes possible, what had been announced by the prophets. The expected signals are accomplished. On his part, Jesus goes to solitude to pray. In the prayer he finds the key for his action, the accomplishment of God´s will: “the Son cannot do anything by himself, but only what he sees the Father do” (Jn 5, 19).
12. Jesus teaches and heals. The disciples are sent to do the same: “Go and proclaim that the kingdom of God is near. Heal the sick, bring the dead back to life, cleanse the lepers and drive out demons” (Mt 10, 7 – 8). “The disciples healed many sick people by anointing them” (Mk 6, 13). The cures (ordinary and extraordinary) are signals of the Kingdom of God present among us. The community has to be “the Bethesda pool” (Jn 5) among the society, id est, a community that heals. Like Paul says, God himself “makes everything in everybody” (1 Co 12, 6), “you are the body of Christ” (12, 27), Christ acts in each one of you. Some, in a special way, have the gift of healing (12, 28).

* Dialogue: In which situations of sickness and alienation are the Gospel’s signals accomplished?  Before the Gospel’s passage, how do we position ourselves?
- As disciples that follow Jesus.
- As lepers out of the town
- Without solution, communication or hope.
- Coming to Jesus
- Cured, recovered for communion and the community.
- we take part in the mission of healing.