Leprosy is a skin disease that attacks the nerves and muscles. It can cause disability, blindness and disfigurement. In ancient times, there was no cure or treatment for leprosy. The only response was the one described in today’s First Reading from the book of Leviticus. The person suffering from leprosy was declared ‘unclean’ and forced to live outside the community, for the protection of others. Anyone declared a ‘leper’ suffered from terrible isolation, as well as the pain of their disease. No one would touch a leper, for fear of becoming a leper themselves.
This is the situation of the man whom Jesus meets in today’s Gospel. He begs Jesus to heal him. Jesus is filled with compassion for the man, and reaches out to touch him, even though, in doing so, Jesus makes himself unclean in the eyes of the Law. By the power of Jesus’ love, the man is healed. He can go back to his home, his family and his life.
In the past year, the world has been struck by the coronavirus pandemic. As with leprosy in Jesus’ time, medicine has had no answer to this new disease. We have been forced to isolate the sufferers, and isolate ourselves from one another, for fear of infection. Now that the vaccinations have begun, there is hope that life can gradually return to normal. But we must learn the lessons of the pandemic. People who suffer from addiction or mental illness, disability or disfigurement, can feel terribly isolated, and their isolation adds to their suffering. No one is untouchable for Jesus. Who are the people that I don’t want to touch? And where in my life do I need Jesus’ healing touch?