Gospel Meditation: Do We Know We Need Healing?

User’s Guide to the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

‘Christ Cleansing a Leper’ by Jean-Marie Melchior Doze, 1864
‘Christ Cleansing a Leper’ by Jean-Marie Melchior Doze, 1864 (photo: Public domain)

Sunday, Feb. 11, is the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time. Mass readings: Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46; Psalm 32:1-2, 5, 11; 1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1; Mark 1:40-45

In the Sunday Gospel, we see the healing of a leper (this means you and me). Leprosy in Scripture is more than just a physical illness, it is also a euphemism for sin. Leprosy itself is not sin, but it resembles what sin does to us spiritually; for sin, like leprosy, disfigures us; it deteriorates us; it distances us (recall how lepers had to live apart from the community), and it brings death if it is not checked. Let’s see how we can lose our leprosy in four steps. 

1. Admit the Reality 

The text says simply, “A leper came to Jesus, and kneeling down, begged him and said, ‘If you wish you can make me clean.’” 

He knows he is a leper; he knows he needs healing. He humbles himself, kneels and pleads for cleansing. 

And what of us? Do we know our sin? Do we know we need healing? Are we willing to ask? We live in times where sin is often made light of and confessional lines are short. 

But the fact is we are loaded with sin. Too easily we are thinned-skinned, egotistical, unforgiving, unloving, unkind, mean-spirited, selfish, greedy, lustful, jealous, envious, bitter, ungrateful, smug, superior, vengeful, angry, aggressive, unspiritual, unprayerful, stingy, and just plain mean. And if all the things on the list don’t apply to you, many do and, frankly, the list is incomplete. We are sinners and need serious help.

2. Accept the Relationship 

Notice two things. First, the leper calls on the Lord Jesus. In effect, he seeks a relationship with Jesus, knowing that it can heal him. Secondly, Jesus is moved with pity and touches him. The English word “pity,” though often considered a condescending word today, is rooted in the Latin pietas, referring to family love. So Jesus sees this man as a brother and reaches out to him. 

The touch of Jesus was an unthinkable action at that time. No one would touch a leper, But Jesus is God and loves this man. 

And as for all sinners, Scriptures says of Jesus:

 “He is not ashamed to call them his brethren” (Hebrews 2:11).

3. Apply the Remedy

Having healed him, note that Jesus instructs him to follow through in this manner: “Jesus said to him, ‘Go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them.’” Among the ancient Jews it was the priests who were trained and empowered to recognize leprosy and its healing. 

And, of course, we have here a metaphor for sacramental confession. For what does the priest do in confession? He assesses a person’s spiritual condition, and having seen God’s healing mercy at work in a person’s repentance, reconciles, or, in the case of serious sinners, readmits them into the full communion of the Church. 

It is God who forgives, just like the leper in this story, but the Lord ministers through the priest.

4. Announce the Result 

The man went and told everyone! There’s just something about joy. It can’t be hidden. And people know when you’ve been changed. 

At the heart of evangelization is announcing what the Lord has done for us. 

Yes, tell somebody what the Lord has done. If the healing is real, you can’t keep silent.