The leper and me

In today’s Gospel, Mark 1: 40-45, a leper approaches Jesus, kneels before him and challenges him:

If you want to, you can make me clean.

A leper was not supposed to do that. As the first reading from Leviticus (13: 1-2,44-46) tell us, the leper was supposed to separate himself from all the “clean” people and cry out, “Unclean. Unclean.”

He knew he was unclean, a leper, but he refused to let himself be identified as a leper, as an unclean person. He saw a way out – healing by Jesus.

He did not hide himself – as Adam and Eve hid themselves when they realized that they were naked after having eaten the forbidden fruit.

No he sought the Lord. He sought a change of life. He wanted to be healed.

Lent will start on Wednesday.

Lent is traditionally a time of penance, of conversion.

Perhaps the first step on the road to conversion is recognizing our condition – as sinners, as people who are not perfect and who fail to live up to who we are called to be.

But the second step is essential: we need to turn to the Lord for healing.We must not let ourselves be defined by our condition.

This can be expressed better in some languages, like Spanish, were there is a distinction between two ways of being. “Ser” means to be in the sense of one’s nature, one’s identity, something that defines us: I am a US citizen. “Estar” involves a condition that can change: I am tired.

Sinfulness is our condition. It’s not our identity.

We are called to be holy.

Yes, we sin. But God can change that.

The leper knew that. He did not deny that he had leprosy, but he refused to be defined by his leprosy because he knew of the loving compassion of God, made manifest in Jesus.

Lent is a time to let out sins and faults out into the open – at least to ourselves and God. Then, approaching the throne of grace, we can ask the Lord to heal us.

And, as Jesus said to the leper, he says to us:

I want [to heal you]. Be clean.


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