The first reading and the Gospel are usually connected in theme. This weekend is no exception. Both talk about leprosy and those who are contracted with it.
According to HarperCollins Bible Dictionary and some scripture scholars I have come across, it is unclear what leprosy really is but it is certainly not modern leprosy (Hansen’s disease). This information can help us reread the readings this weekend in broader terms. Leprosy can be interpreted as any kind of physical disorder that makes people excluded or left out in many ways, not only physically but also socially. The person, as mentioned in the first reading from the book of Leviticus, who is leprous must be declared “unclean”. Uncleanliness in this context is not only about hygiene but also and moreover about ritual and social state: being outcasts in the community and society.
The only barrier between healing and the leper in the Gospel story is Jesus’ willingness. The only barrier between inclusivity and those who are left out, looked down, discriminated against in community and society is our willingness to make a change. We may not be able to “cure” diseases or disorders people have like Jesus was able according to the Gospel story, but we are capable of “healing” the social judgements and discriminations against those who are different from the majority. The outcasts are also human beings; but they are different to us, so different that we can’t accept them in our midst. Unless we can see that at times in our life we have been also outcasts, unless we can see that within ourselves we have some parts of us as strangers, we will never be able to have a genuine compassion for those who are strangers in our midst.
Br Khoi Nguyen msc