Homily for the sixth Sunday of the Year - Year B - Mk. 1:40-45
Canon Dr. Daniel Meynen
" A leper came to Jesus beseeching him, and kneeling said to him, 'If you will, you can make me clean.' Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, 'I will ; be clean.' And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. And he sternly charged him, and sent him away at once, and said to him, 'See that you say nothing to any one; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to the people.' But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in the country ; and people came to him from every quarter. "
" A leper came to Jesus beseeching him, and kneeling said to him, 'If you will, you can make me clean.' "
The meeting of Jesus and the leper was recounted in all three synoptic gospels (cf. Lk. 5:12-16 ; Mt. 8:1-4). Curiously, contrary to his usual habit, Saint Mark, whom we read today, is the one who provides the greatest amount of detail. He is the only one to mention the fact that the leper does not obey Jesus' command not to tell anyone that he had been cured by the Messiah: Saint Mark seems to want to continue recounting a series of episodes in which the renown of Jesus is ceaselessly proclaimed by the people whom the Divine Master meets on his journey.
This is no doubt what had most struck Peter when he began to follow Jesus. For the gospel of Mark is a summary of the catechesis of Peter, the first bishop of Rome. Had not Peter also been struck by the development of this prodigious enterprise: the Church of Christ, the Temple of the Spirit, the Ark of the New Covenant? What a marvel that was to the eyes of the first Pope! A Church who was still quite hidden, but whose faith was overflowing and whose charity pours forth ceaselessly under the effusion of the Spirit!
But before all this, Peter was present when this leper provided his testimony of faith: "If you will, you can make me clean." It is all there: the faith of this leper! "You can make me clean." Such words demonstrate an enormous faith, an almost limitless faith in the omnipotence of God. This man, this leper, attracted by Jesus, supported by he who is the very author of grace, does that which is the necessary condition for his healing to take place: he believes in the omnipotence of God. There is only one thing lacking: God must want to put his omnipotence into action in order to heal this man of his leprosy. "If you will, you can make me clean."
" Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, 'I will ; be clean.' And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. And he sternly charged him, and sent him away at once, and said to him, 'See that you say nothing to any one; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to the people.' "
Jesus healed the leper! The faith of the sick man had to be rewarded: Jesus could not leave unanswered the contact he had felt through the faith of the leper. From the moment that a person's faith attains its objective, if this faith is pure and true, then the Lord decides to act, sooner or later: his
omnipotence will be set in motion to come to the aid of our fallen humanity! Like the woman who, suffering from a flow of blood (cf. Mk. 5:28-30), had touched Jesus not only with her hand (which had grasped the cloak of the Savior) but also with her immense faith, it was in this way that the leper we read about today was healed by the omnipotence of God in Jesus.
Jesus was glad to perform miracles, for he is the Healer par excellence, and he wants to heal us of all sicknesses. Above all, he wants to heal us of the sickness of sin, he wants to purify us of the leprosy of the soul which we carry with us from generation to generation. The healing of the leprosy of the body carried out by Jesus is thus nothing other than a sign of the healing of the leprosy of the soul. The healing of the leprosy of the body, which Jesus ardently desires for he whom he will heal, is in reality but a means through which to prove to everyone his divine origin. In the first place, Jesus desires that the priests and the religious authorities of his time recognize him as the Messiah, he who was sent by the Father! "Go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to the people."
It is true: Jesus knows very well that the priests would condemn him to death: the death on the cross. Even though it was not the priests who pronounced the death sentence, it was nonetheless they who had delivered him to Pilate. However, Jesus knows that, until the last day of his life, anything is possible. That is his power! Yes: the many will condemn him, but the few, those who keep a pure conscience, will they not need this testimony of hope which will save them?
" But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in the country ; and people came to him from every quarter. "
Truly, a great prophet has appeared to the People of Israel! And Peter is the witness to this! He sees this crowd come in great numbers to Jesus in order to receive some relief and words of comfort. Surely, it is a memory that had imprinted itself upon the great Apostle. It is not the only such occurence that he held in his memory. He also saw the Spirit at work on the day of Pentecost, when more than three thousand new followers were baptized (cf. Ac. 2:41).
Jesus had wanted the leper whom he had cured to be silent and tell no one of his healing. But this was not what happened. It is a paradox: the more Jesus' renown grew, the more his mission was realized and the salvation of God was proclaimed throughout the world ; but, at the same time, the greater Jesus' renown, the closer his mission came to its end, for those who were envious and jealous would do anything to put an end to it, an end which would come on Good Friday.
May the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, who was also there, with Peter, intercede on our behalf with her Divine Son, in order that the mission which the Savior of the world had entrusted to the Church might be accomplished to an ever greater extent, spreading itself out to the ends of the earth!