Whom are ‘lepers’ today? What is our personal leprosy? … Let’s come to Christ for healing through Reconciliation


Whom are ‘lepers’ today? What is our personal leprosy? … Let’s come to Christ for healing through Reconciliation

The First reading reminds us of the strict guidelines developed by the Israelites in the old days to deal with cases of leprosy: which meant any disease that could easily be communicated to others.  Does it sound harsh?

Before we judge too harshly, let us judge ourselves: the recent COVID-19 pandemic produced a lot of similar protocols: putting people in isolation; and for many people it was difficult to live confined to their homes for several weeks at a time.

So, there are good reasons for forcing people to live in isolation: even prisoners are another example.  Those who have committed crimes against others are locked away to protect society from more danger.

However, most countries try to rehabilitate the prisoners so they can be released back into society after some time.  The same with COVID-19: people worked hard to produce vaccines that could minimise the risk of infection and allow people to re-join community.

What these examples, and the First reading remind us of strongly, is that community life is essential for our well-being.  But do we appreciate it or value it properly?

The First Reading and Gospel can also be a great analogy for the way we treat other people in our society.  In recent years we have seen much discussion about the exclusion of divorced and remarried people; LGBTQ+ people; people in irregular marriages: all are welcome as long as they abstain from Holy Communion, and no ‘politics’.  But many still felt unwelcome.

In some parts of the world there have been many calls for the Pope and Vatican to give more clarity on pastoral care for people in irregular situations.  So that was the reason for the recent Fiducia Supplicans document.

Unfortunately it was heavily criticised in some parts of the world, misrepresented by some people and the media, and generally misunderstand by the majority of Catholics.

80% of the document reaffirms the teaching of the Church that marriage is between a man and a wife.  Only 20% of the document deals with people in irregular relationships.

Last week, the Pope gave a very clear clarification: the intention is to reach out to people living in irregular relationships: to bless the individuals but not the relationship.  The hope is that the person will feel loved and come to recognise that there is a better way to live.

This is exactly what Jesus is doing in today’s Gospel: the man who approached Jesus has leprosy.  He is not supposed to approach anyone: but the man has the courage to recognise that his condition requires healing and has faith that Jesus can do it.

A few years ago, one of our youth was approached by a hungry man on the street.  So the youth took him to a small café and seated him near the door.  Another man in the Café got upset and demanded he be removed; and he was.  The man was smelly and dirty, but not leprous!

So the young man stood up, protested strongly to the Café manager, and took the tea and snack outside.  I’m sure other patrons would have learned a lesson that day.  Are we busy asking God to help us, while at the same time disrespecting God in people around us?

The readings today invite us to see how we might bring healing to others, especially those who have been excluded from family or community life for one reason or another.

We are also encouraged to come to Jesus Christ for healing in ourselves.  Many people in our communities and family carry great loneliness and shame that can make them feel unworthy.  So that, although they look to be connected to community, they feel otherwise.

This can be because of previous bad things they have done, or abuse that they suffer in silence, or current bad habits to do with alcohol, drugs, sex or pornography.

Let us pray that today’s readings encourage all of us to seek the peace and healing possible from God through the gift of Reconciliation.  Then we can be more alive and truly joyful.

By Gerard Conlan, OMI