Do you want a miracle this Sunday in your life? – 6th Sunday in ordinary time – Mark 1:40-45

Do you want a miracle this Sunday in your life? – 6th Sunday in ordinary time – Mark 1:40-45

This was Jesus’ third miracle in the Gospel of Mark. He has just concluded a preaching tour in Galilee (1:35-39) and is somewhere in the region of Galilee. He is where the people are (verse 38) God goes to the people. This is the Church we ought to be; a church that goes to where people are. He went to their synagogues and cast out demons….(1:39)

The miracle involves a leper. A leper who came to him ‘kneeling’ and ‘begging’. This disease had sucked the oxygen out of the leper’s lungs. He just needed this miracle today as perhaps some of you need a miracle this Sunday. He was tired of his physical condition but also of his spiritual ailment; so he asked for cleansing of his soul. The most painful wounds we carry with from the past are more wounds of the spirit than of the body.

For the Jew, physical suffering was a punishment by God for one’s sin. This man had rotting flesh due to leprosy but let us not exclude the possibility that he also had a rotten heart. The leper realized that both needed cleansing; not just a physical miracle, he needed a spiritual cleansing also. We need to ask the Lord to touch us too, touch the ugly bits of us that we do not like to look at.

But how do I approach the Lord in prayer? This leper was down on his knees, begging. Perhaps I need to do the same. I need to get off my high horse because I too am desperately in need of this miracle for myself. I am in need of cleansing; my sin is hanging on me like rotting flesh.

The law required that a leper stay away from others – a social and religious exclusion. The leper breaches this code by approaching Jesus, and Jesus breaches it by touching the leper. Interestingly the leper asked for cleansing not a ‘huggy moment’, he never imagined he would be touched. He wanted cleansing he got a brotherly hug and a healing. How sensitive and responsive Jesus is; he is “moved with pity” for the leper as he is with us.

Jesus makes his intention clear, “I choose to make you clean”. Here is a question that we could ask ourselves. Do we want to be made clean? Desiring spiritual cleansing must be more than a wish and a fancy. What’s your leprosy that has remained with you all these years? What is it that you require to be cleansed from? are you not tired of your disease? Do you not want to be cleansed? Do you want to continue to isolate yourself spiritually from God?

Jesus chooses for us to be clean. “BE MADE CLEAN” he said to the leper. Three word! He did not say ‘be clean’. If he said that it might indicate that the cleansing could be due to our power and strength; of our doing. Jesus categorically said, “be MADE clean” for HE makes us clean. He is the source of cleansing and that is why the leper said if YOU CHOOSE, YOU CAN MAKE ME CLEAN. The leper acknowledged the power of Jesus and proclaims him God through his faith appeal.

However, “If you choose” also means ‘if you choose not to’. This is also a faith realty that many of us are called to accept. The leper did not arm twist the Lord. He clearly made an assertion of faith. He knows Jesus has the power to, he knows he is addressing God, yet there is a submission. He does not tell the Lord “I’ll hold it against you if you don’t help me”. He is ready to accept what every the Lord chooses for him. His faith is deep enough to leave Jesus in perfect freedom to decided; to say to Jesus, “If you choose” – and to mean it.

We are told that immediately the leprosy left him and he was made clean; both the physical and spiritual healing takes place. So many of us want a physical healing from the lord but we do not want a spiritual healing? You can’t ask the Lord to take away COVID or Cancer but not take away your sin.

Today’s Gospel is more than just a healing story it is a proclamation narrative. (see verse 45). We are told that Jesus ‘sternly’ warns the leper, now cleansed, not to say anything and sends him ‘away at once’. It strikes me that Jesus is not here to collect followers, he is here to make disciples. This cleansed man could have  become an advertisement of Jesus’ miraculous power  and taged along as proof of his divine powers. Jesus does the opposite; he sets him free to go out.

Having effected a cure, Jesus complies with the law in sending the man to the priest to formalize his re-instatement in the community. Jesus observes the law when it is of help to people. See that you say nothing to anyone, go show yourself to the priest, offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded as a testimony to them.”

But for this man it seems that the old law was worthless. He was under the old law for so long and it had done him nothing (something that St Paul too says) so he went out and began to proclaim his ‘cleansing’ (not his healing). Scripture says he went out and “began to proclaim IT (his testimony) freely and to spread the word. He spread the word not his healing. He has to spread the news everywhere, because he was utterly convinced of the power of the divine work of Jesus and who Jesus is.

Yet we know that he disobeyed God. He did what he was told not to do. But I am going to go out on a limb and say that his disobedience is better than the righteous obedience of so many Catholics. At the end of every mass we are commanded, “the mass is ended go and proclaim the Gospel. This man was told to keep quiet and he proclaimed Jesus and we who are told to proclaim the Lord, keep quiet. Yes, he disobeyed the Lord because he was willing to march in to hell for a heavenly cause. The leper becomes a disciple and an evangelist; he spreads the word. He witnesses to Jesus’ goodness. Can I  too may become a witness to what God is doing in my life?

Of considerable interest is the reversal that takes place within this story. The realities of the leper and Jesus are switched within five verses. The leper who ought not enter a community without being freed from his ailment returns to his village, his priest, and his role in life. Jesus is suddenly unable to enter a village and is kept from his role in life. As a result of ONE TESTIMONY, of ONE MAN, Jesus could no longer go into the town openly, he had to go quietly. Jesus was forced to stay outside in the countryside. This testimony had inconvenienced the lord, but I think the Lord must have quietly smiled at his inconvenience and wished all his disciples would make it hard for him to walk freely as the leper did for Jesus. That is the power of an evangelist and that is what is missing among Catholics today. Faith has become a personal matter to be practiced privately. Christianity is not a me and myself thing.

Jesus is forced to take refuge in the country and the Gospels tell us that people still came to him from every quarter. They did not ask which air conditioned hall are you preaching in? Will there be benches or chairs or even more when will the service get over?

This is such a rich Gospel….so much to think about.

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