February 11, 2024: Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gospel: Mark 1:40-45
A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.” The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean. Then, warning him sternly, he dismissed him at once.
He said to him, “See that you tell no one anything, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them.”
The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter. He spread the report abroad so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly. He remained outside in deserted places, and people kept coming to him from everywhere.
“My job is hard enough without you making it worse.”
Have you ever felt that way? I imagine Jesus might have had a “facepalm” moment when the person recently healed of leprosy is standing before him, nodding in agreement as Jesus asks him to be discrete about this healing, and then turns and runs off yelling, “Hey, look what happened to me!” Was this where the saying “no good deed goes unpunished” was born?
How often do we question an act of charity or kindness? The person on the street corner holding a sign; probably a con artist, we presume. The person who ran out of gas on the country road; they should have planned better. The person we lent money to; they chose to spend it poorly. The neighbor we’ve heard has Covid yet again; they’re never going to learn prevention strategies – and I hope they’re not expecting my help, because I’m not getting sick for this.
Jesus does advise us to be prudent throughout the Gospels, but notice the juxtaposition of today’s first reading with today’s Gospel. Taken from the ever-notorious book of Leviticus, the first reading seems to say that the person with leprosy is to be an outcast, living away from everyone else and shouting “unclean!” before anyone has a chance to get too close. In the Gospel, Jesus tosses that aside and goes so far as to touch the person.
The person Jesus healed was sternly warned not to say anything of it. Think about that for a moment – you’ve been cured of a horrible disease, and you’re not supposed to say anything?! I don’t think I could be quiet. Even though his directive is ignored, however, Jesus doesn’t “undo” the healing or stop healing others. He continues his ministry despite what has become impossible and just shifts his course to the outskirts of town.
This week, think about a time we allowed someone to steal our joy or turn our kindness on end. Did they really, or did we respond from a more self-concerned perspective? Where are we making judgments about others’ motives? Do we hold back as a result? How can we take these things in stride and shift our course to a more prudent direction while continuing the mission of love, mercy, and justice? After all, ours is the only action or reaction we can control.