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Mark 1:40-45

The Word of God

A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, ‘If you choose, you can make me clean.’ Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I do choose. Be made clean!’ Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, saying to him, ‘See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.’ But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.

Mark 1:40-45
  • Some thoughts on today's scripture

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    • The most painful wounds we carry with from the past are more wounds of the spirit than of the body. Of these spiritual wounds that one that causes us most pain is that of a belief that we are insignificant. In this Gospel story we hear in Jesus’ words to the leper, his concern to heal this wound we carry with us from the past.
    • In your prayer today tell Jesus of some way you were hurt or wounded by something people said or did to you. Listen to how sensitive and responsive he is when he is “moved with pity” or compassion for you. Tell him how you feel about him being like this.
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    • The leper doesn’t reckon: “I’ve tried others for a cure; now I’ll try Jesus”. No, he just knows that Jesus has the power – his only worry is: ‘Will he use that power for me?’
    • Jesus looks at me too, ready to use his power for my good.
    • Finally, the leper is so thankful that he can’t stop telling people. I too can be aware of great things that have been done for me and can give gratitude for them in my prayer.
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    • Again in this gospel we find Jesus moved with pity. Leprosy was a living death: the sufferer was isolated from family and community, and had to cry out ‘Unclean, unclean!’ when anyone approached. Touching the leper made Jesus ritually unclean also. There are no lengths to which Jesus will not go to help this man. He touches him, speaks to him, and gives him his freedom to be fully human again.
    • I spend a few moments with the leper before his cure, and then meet him afterwards. What might he say to me about faith in Jesus? About my pity for others in need? Whom do I touch?
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    • ‘Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him.’ Leprosy in the Bible was not precisely what we mean by the term, but was a general name for any repulsive, scaly, skin disease. That first word, σπλαγχνισθειs, connotes a deep, gut-wrenching compassion, which showed itself in the extraordinary (for a man of that time) gesture of touching the leprosy.
    • Touch me, Lord. Touch the ugly bits of me that I do not like to look at. If you will, you can make me clean.
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    • This man must have been overwhelmed by gratitude - he did the very thing Jesus asked him not to do! Help me Lord to receive the gifts you offer, to rejoice in them but never to forget that they come from you.
    • I take some time to allow Jesus' loving look to linger on me. I hear him say, "I choose…" as he brings me blessing and longs for my wholeness.
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    • ‘Deeply moved, Jesus put out his hand and touched him.’ Jesus, the poet of God’s compassion, spoke in parables, but also in actions. He healed the sick and freed people from evil, brokenness and rejection. God’s mercy was not just a beautiful idea. In Jesus, God is the active champion of the suffering.
    • Lord, let my faith not be swamped by horror at the misery and hopelessness of so many in our world, in Africa, Ireland and elsewhere. Instead, I ask your blessing on those who devote themselves to compassionate care of the needy. They are the unsung champions of your love today. I ask the grace to be numbered among them.
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    • Leprosy was a term which covered a variety of skin diseases. In Jewish law any or all of them made the victim unclean. Lepers were often banished from society lest they might infect others. For Jesus to touch a leper was shocking. But in this way Jesus shows his closeness to us in our need. I thank him for this.
    • The leper becomes a disciple – he spreads the word. He witnesses to Jesus’ goodness. Can I let him take me by the hand so that I too may become a witness to what God is doing in my life?
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    • Jesus, the compassionate one, enters fully into the human mess of our lives. Leprosy was the most dreaded of diseases in his day. Jesus risks conflict and division for the sake of a nobody who was suffering exclusion and isolation from family and community.
    • The leper approaches in confident trust and Jesus touches his sore, leprous body. Lord, how do I approach you in prayer? Begging, kneeling, and asking for what I want? Let me feel your touch.
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    • Jesus affirms the desire of the man with leprosy: his ‘Certainly I want to,’ is his response to our desire for what is truly for our growth and wellbeing.
    • The leper knew his need and trusted that Jesus could help him. I pray with the same attitude, not hiding my neediness, not hesitant about bringing it before Jesus, listening for Jesus’ encouraging response.