February 12, 2006 - Year B - Epiphany 6
• 40 A leper came to Jesus and begged him, “If you so will, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” 42 The leprosy left the man at once and he was made clean. 43 As Jesus sent the man away, he sternly warned him, 44 “Don’t tell anyone about this, but go and show yourself to the priest and for the cleansing bring the offering ordered by Moses; in this way you will make your declaration.”
45 However, as soon as the man went out, he began spreading the news everywhere, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter any town. But even though he stayed in the rural areas, people came to him from everywhere.
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• 40. Jesus leaves Capernaum to announce the Good News to the most isolated and ignored families in the whole country. There he finds the lepers. At that time leprosy was considered as a contagious disease. Because of this, lepers had to live on the outskirts of the towns, far from the rest of the population. There was also a belief that leprosy was an affliction from God, and the Jewish religion declared lepers unclean.
By Jesus’ act, the flesh of the leper becomes clean. As a result of this, from that time on, he would be like others and people would no longer avoid him. Both people and the Law of God would acknowledge his dignity.
The Good News does not remain mere words but it effects a change. From then on, they would no longer be marginalized people.
Don’t tell anyone (v. 44). Very often, particularly in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus gives this order to those who have just been cured of an evil (1:25; 1:34; 1:44; 3:12; 5:43; 7:36; 8:26; 8:30). We must note, however, that Jesus does not give this order when he is outside Israel territory; and that the order is not given after the transfiguration.
Jesus imposed this silence during the first part of his public life because most of the people expected a warlike and vengeful Messiah. Jesus did not want any ambiguity about his mission. Only when Jesus had sufficiently distanced himself from this popular image of the Messiah, would he begin to reveal, first to his disciples, the mystery of his person.
For this same reason Mark, who differs from Matthew, rarely uses the expression “son of God.” Mark reserves it for the privileged moments of Jesus’ revelation to people: his baptism and transfiguration, and at the conclusion of the passion on the lips of the centurion.
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1. Having cleansed, not healed, the leper, Jesus now "snorts" as a war-horse and "casts him out". This is the same language and activity as when Jesus is "led" into the wilderness. Richard W. Swanson in Provoking the Gospel of Mark points out, "The words used are vigorous, even violent in metaphorical power. . . . While in every language words must be allowed to wiggle back and forth, to have different shades of meaning at different times, it is a risky matter to begin to translate by softening words when they touch teach and sharpening them when they touch demons. What if both are soft? Or, more intriguingly, what if both are sharp?"
We are called to remember to read radically, back to the roots, rather than only through the lens of our current culture.
2. The words of good news are intended to change the current situation of bad news for so many. Look again at Jesus' first response. Was his initial reaction to the separation of some out on the basis of their skin one of "pity" or "anger"? Different translations have it differently. Remember your response to this question, to the choosing of a translational bias says reams about your religious orientation. Are you going to pity and get caught in eternal band-aiding of trouble? Are you going to anger and get caught in the eternal quest for causation of trouble? Some disciples of Jesus seem oriented in one direction and some in the other. How do we work together so that the Week of Christian Unity is not just a calendar observation, but a standard operating procedure?
3. As Jesus cast into the wilderness to face his metaphoric time of being a leper comes out with mission and ministry, so this leper, fresh from another besting of the devil of diminishment, goes forth changed and calling attention to the possibility of more change.
As you come off your metaphoric leperhood, however you understand it, are your personally gratified and satisfied or energized to deal with the presence of the leper experience in others?
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