1) Opening prayer
Father of love, hear our prayers.
Help us to know your will
and to do it with courage and faith.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - Mark 1,40-45
A man suffering from a virulent skin-disease came to him and pleaded on his knees saying, 'If you are willing, you can cleanse me.'
Feeling sorry for him, Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him and said to him, 'I am willing. Be cleansed.' And at once the skin-disease left him and he was cleansed. And at once Jesus sternly sent him away and said to him, 'Mind you tell no one anything, but go and show yourself to the priest, and make the offering for your cleansing prescribed by Moses as evidence to them.'
The man went away, but then started freely proclaiming and telling the story everywhere, so that Jesus could no longer go openly into any town, but stayed outside in deserted places. Even so, people from all around kept coming to him.
• Accepting and curing the leper, Jesus reveals a new face of God. A leper came near Jesus. He was an excluded, an impure person. He should be far away. Anybody who touched him, would also become impure! But that leper had great courage. He transgresses the norms of religion in order to be able to get near Jesus. And he calls out: If you want, you can heal me. You need not touch me! It suffices that you want, and I will be healed!. This phrase reveals two evils: a) the evil of leprosy which made him impure; b) the evil of solitude to which he was condemned by society and by religion . It also reveals the great faith of the man in the power of Jesus. And Jesus profoundly moved, cures both evils. In the first place, in order to cure solitude, he touches the leper. It is as if he said: “For me, you are not an excluded one. I accept you as a brother!” And then he cures the leper saying: I want it! Be cured! The leper, in order to enter into contact with Jesus, had transgressed the norms of the Law. Jesus also, in order to be able to help that excluded person and therefore, reveal a new face of God, transgresses the norms of his religion and touches the leper. At that time, whoever touched a leper became impure according to the religious authority and by the law of that time.
• He integrated anew the excluded person in the fraternal living together. Jesus, not only cures, but also wants the cured person to be able to live with the others. He once again inserts the person in society to live with others. At that time for a leper to be accepted again in the community, it was necessary to get a certificate from the priest that he had been cured. It is like today. A sick person leaves the hospital with a document signed by the doctor of the department where he had been hospitalized. Jesus obliges the person to look for that document, in such a way that he will be able to live normally with others. He obliges the authority to recognize that this man has been cured.
• The leper announces the good that Jesus has done to him and Jesus becomes an excluded person. Jesus forbids the leper to speak about the cure. The Gospel of Mark informs that this prohibition does not serve. The leper, walking away, began to diffuse the fact, to the point that Jesus could no longer enter publicly into a city, but remained outside, in a deserted place (Mk 1, 45). Why? Because Jesus had touched the leper. Because of this, according to the opinion of the religion of that time, now he himself was impure and should live far away from all others. He could no longer enter the city. And Mark says that people did not care about these official norms, in fact, people came to him from everywhere (Mk 1, 45). Total subversion!
• Summarizing. In the year 70, when Mark wrote, as well as today, the time in which we live, it was and continues to be important to have before our eyes models of how to live and how to proclaim the Good News of God and of how to evaluate our mission. In verses 16 to 45 of the first chapter of his Gospel, Mark describes the mission of the community and presents eight criteria in order that the communities of his time could evaluate their mission. The following is the outline:
Text Activity of Jesus Objective of the mission
Jesus calls his first disciples
To form the community
The people were admired at his teaching
To create a critical conscience
Jesus expels a devil
To overcome the force of evil
He cures Peter’s mother-in-law
To give life back so as to serve
He cures the sick and the possessed
To accept the marginalized
Jesus rises early to pray
To remain united with the Father
Jesus continues the announcement
Not to stop at the results
He cures a leper
To integrate anew the excluded
4) Personal questions
• To proclaim the Good News means to give witness of the concrete experience of Jesus that one has. What does the leper announce? He tells others the good that Jesus has done to him. Only this! And this witness leads others to accept the Good News of God which Jesus brings to us. Which is the witness that you give?
• To take the Good News to the people, it is not necessary to be afraid to transgress the religious norms which are contrary to God’s project and which make communication, dialogue and the living out of love difficult. Even if this causes difficulty for the people, as it caused difficulty for Jesus. Do I have this courage?
5) Concluding prayer
Come, let us bow low and do reverence;
kneel before Yahweh who made us!
For he is our God,
and we the people of his sheepfold,
the flock of his hand. (Ps 95,6-7)