Leprosy is a curable disease. In ancient biblical times, however, lepers were required to announce themselves as being “unclean” and were forced to live in isolation. Their only human contact was with others who suffered from the same condition. In the first century of the Christian era, leprosy was not only a terminal disease but considered the outcome of sins passed on through the generations. Disease was considered to be a punishment from God. These beliefs still exist among certain tribal religions, however we believe that Jesus frees us from sin.
The Gospel According to Mark
The leper in the Gospel for the 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Mark 1:40-45) must have known this when he approached the Savior begging to be cleaned. Jesus’ response was more than healing the man’s body. Jesus freed him from a life of isolation and loneliness. I firmly believe that depression is quickly becoming the fastest spreading illness of our time. Left untreated, it can be deadly. Unlike leprosy, the depressed person is not easily recognized. People who suffer from depression often lead a life of isolation and a kind of loneliness within themselves. People who misunderstand the illness sometimes think that depression is brought on by the sufferer. Whatever the cause, it is a tragic illness and one that must be taken seriously.
Jesus reaches out to heal the sick, but we are called to share the life and words of Jesus. Each of us has been in some way touched by Jesus and it brings us into a deeper understanding of what it means to be a part of the Body of Christ. As the Season of Lent begins, let us move beyond Jesus’ words and become his hands and feet. Part of the paschal mystery means taking up our daily cross and doing what Jesus did by expressing compassion in our attitude and care toward others, even if it means giving something of our self. As we journey toward Lent, let us consider how and what we give so that we can bring healing to ourselves and each other. Reach out and touch a lonely heart.