Leprosy is a painful and disfiguring disease. Nowadays it is curable, but it has not yet been eliminated; people still suffer from leprosy today. In Jesus’ time it was wrongly believed that the disease could be passed on by touch. So anyone who was thought to be suffering from leprosy would be excluded from their family and community, as described in today’s First Reading. They were considered ‘unclean’ and were terribly isolated.
This is the situation of the man who meets Jesus in today’s Gospel. He begs Jesus to cure him. Jesus is moved with compassion and reaches out to touch the man, who is healed at once. He can go home and return to normal life.
Anyone labelled as a ‘leper’ was driven out of the community because of fear and ignorance. Even touching a leper was enough to make Jesus unclean, but he ignored those rules because of his care for the sick man. This Gospel story prompts us to ask ourselves who is a ‘leper’ today. Who are the people that we fear or want to avoid? Jesus calls us to follow his example and reach out with compassion to those who are excluded.