Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today’s readings give us a glimpse into the ancient world, especially since each of the three synoptic Gospels recount Jesus healing someone of leprosy (Matthew 8:2-4; Luke 5:12-14; Mark 1:40-45). Yet, this is not the first time God intervened to cure a leper as the Old Testament presents the account of Naaman, the commander of the king of Aram, who after washing seven times in the Jordan River as prescribed by prophet Elisha was cleansed (II Kings 5:1-14).
Like many parts of Leviticus, where our First Reading comes from, we are given rules for those who are deemed physically unclean. Today’s passage gives us a “definition,” of what leprosy would have amounted to: “if someone has on his skin a scab or pustule or blotch which appears to be the sore of leprosy” to show themselves to the priests (Leviticus 13:1-2). Yet, despite the superficial skin disease and the stigma and isolation that leprosy brings, Jesus is able to pierce the heart of the man who asked to be cleansed. Through this cleansing and by sending him to the priests as Moses prescribed (Mark 1:44), Jesus assumes the priests will reinstate the cured man into the religious community. This notion connects so beautifully with the First Week of the Spiritual Exercises, for despite being sinful people, God still longs to purify those who come to God asking for help.