In the Gospel passage, a leper approaches Jesus and, in a bold
pronouncement of faith, exclaims: “Lord, if you wish, you
can make me clean.” In those days, people who were inflicted
with leprosy were often shunned by the community and forced to live
on the outskirts of town. It was a disease that provoked great fear
among the people. A healthy person would not even consider touching
a leper, due to the fear of contracting the disease. Jesus, in response
to the man’s plea, stretches out His hand and touches the
man, healing him.
It is easy to focus on the act of healing; indeed, the healing of
a leper is a miraculous event well worth that focus. But too often
we concentrate on the effect, and forget about the cause. What was
the act that set the healing into motion?
I cannot help but think about Jesus’ courage in stretching
out His hand to touch the leper. In doing this, Jesus was doing
the unthinkable. Described as “full of leprosy,” the
man must have had sores all over his body. To touch this man was
to come into direct physical contact with the disease. Jesus was
putting Himself at great personal risk. He was vulnerable.
Certainly He was Jesus – one could say that He had to know
that the leper would be healed. And one must also assume that, if
Jesus could heal others, He could heal Himself. Is that a valid
assumption? Is that how Jesus’ healing power worked? Or did
it have more to do with His connection with the leper? Or was it
perhaps the Holy Spirit that came out from Jesus’ touch to
do the healing? We certainly cannot solve the mystery of Jesus’
healing powers, but we can address Jesus’ vulnerability, that
same vulnerability that we share with Him.
Jesus was human as well as divine, and as we all know from personal
experience, a large part of our humanity lies in our vulnerability.
Again and again, throughout the Gospel passages, Jesus’ humanity
made Him vulnerable. Indeed, he succumbed to the ultimate vulnerability:
Yet everyone familiar with the Christian faith knows that Jesus’
death was not the end. As the leper was miraculously healed, Jesus
was miraculously raised from the dead. Perhaps Jesus’ courage
was fortified by the knowledge that whatever happens here on earth,
stays on earth (to borrow a phrase widely known here in the U.S.).
Even when healing the sick and afflicted, He was focused upon the
Kingdom of God, a place where all of the pain and suffering that
happens here on earth is washed away.