A leper came to him (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 (Mark 1:40-42).
A reflection from Father Tudgay for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
We’re all quite familiar with the need to isolate ourselves when we’re sick. Ten days, five days, two weeks, a certain amount of days after exposure. Direct exposure. Secondary exposure. Exposure to someone who is symptomatic, but waiting for a test result. Exposure to someone who isn’t symptomatic, but awaiting a test result because they were exposed to someone who was exposed to someone who tested positive…… remember those days!
Joking aside, and with all due sensitivity to the impact of the Pandemic, there is an element of isolation that is required due to illness, which is precautionary. There is also isolation that can creep in due to disease. This isn’t temporary. And when the disease is chronic, so, too, can the isolation. This is particularly acute when the illness, disease, or infirmity becomes burdensome to those around us. Suddenly, our struggle, illness, or disease can leave us dealing with our struggles on our own. The isolation can be worse than the illness.
And here we see the impact of what’s taking place in the Gospel passage. There is a miracle that Jesus performs that, in itself, changes the life of the person effected by the painful and deadly leprosy. The diagnosis of leprosy, seen in the First Reading, was a death sentence. Moreover, the painful death that leprosy brought also meant that the person was isolated from the community, alone. It was also presumed that they did something morally unclean, leading to stigma. The worst! No wonder lepers were to be avoided!
The merciful reconciliation that Jesus demonstrates in the Gospel this weekend is an illustration of the restorative power of God’s grace and an example for us to follow. This is where the rubber meets the road for us as Christians. Other than Covid isolation, there are few illnesses and diseases that warrant isolation, yet people who struggle with illness and disease are some of the most isolated in our culture, especially those who suffer or struggle with mental or emotional illnesses. Basically, when we’re isolated or needlessly alone, isolation robs of the compassion that we need from one another. The restoration of the leper to the community represents not only the healing of sickness, but the affirmation that an illness or a disease requires the love and compassion of other people.