6th Sunday - B - 2018 Leviticus 13: 1-2, 44-46 1 Corinth 10: 31- 11:1 Mark 1 : 40-45.
At the back of all our minds is an image of that 'perfect world'. Who would you/ I include/ exclude in such a world? But throughout history there have always been people who have interfered with that 'perfect world' - at times it was women and then there were the blacks or the refugees or those in prison. And In Jesus' time, lepers were near the top of everyone's exclusion list. (This might be the time to ask ourselves if you/ I have such an such an exclusion zone - and who is on the list) The reading from Leviticus demonstrates that fact. It also reveals the consequences of being a leper. It was so bad that even a 'whispering campaign' could destroy a life. That is why only a priest, could legally declare someone to be/ not be a leper. Note how often Jesus, after curing a leper, would send the victim to a 'priest', who then had to fill out the paperwork.
Lepers were forced to cry out, 'Unclean, Unclean', as they walked through the streets. Contact with others was forbidden. Worst of all, they had to 'dwell apart' in leper camps - you may recall the disturbing scenes in the movie 'Ben Hur'. They were probably accurate. Now because of Mark's theology, it is no accident that one of Jesus' first miracles was the cure of a leper. And he did not employ miracles to prove the divinity of Jesus. He told this and other miracles to show what kind of God Jesus revealed. Here is a God who constantly reaches out to those who live outside the perimeters of our perfect world. That is why two things are especially significant in this reading.......
Jesus touches the man before he heals him . According to Jewish law, such contact was not allowed. If it was made then the person who made the touch would suffer the same social consequences as the leper. So Jesus' action made him one with someone who inhabited the space outside our perfect/ ideal world.
The translation we usually have says that Jesus 'moved with pity', stretched out his hand'. A more accurate reading would be, 'Jesus angrily stretched out his hand'. This is what is found in the most ancient manuscripts. ( some pious scribe didn't like the idea of Jesus being angry!) But 'anger fits the Jesus of mark's gospel. Why? Because of Jesus' passion to bring everyone in and to eradicate exclusion. That is something fundamental Christians and some religious leaders have great difficulty dealing with. Complete inclusion is not part of their thinking or vocabulary! And that is in contrast to the Galilean carpenter who when he experienced something that went against his convictions about God, and God's plan for God's people, would cause his emotions to flare.
Now does anything you have read in this gospel reading challenge you/ me to honestly reflect on our attitudes? Are there 'no go' areas we have created in our personal, social lives? Are there times when we dispassionately tolerate injustice? If so, then we have obviously discovered that it is easier than following the call to imitate Christ's passion to inclusiveness, and so avoid the consequences.