Each week, the Jellicoe Blog will be publishing a reflection on the forthcoming Sunday’s lectionary readings. On Sunday 12 February, the Church of England and Roman Catholic churches have different readings set. Here we blog on the Gospel for the Roman Catholic lectionary – a blog on the C of E readings follows:
A leper came to Jesus and pleaded on his knees: “If you want to” he said “you can cure me.” Feeling sorry for him, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him. “Of course I want to!” he said. “Be cured!” And the leprosy left him at once and he was cured. Jesus immediately sent him away and sternly ordered him, “Say nothing to anyone, but go and show yourself to the priest, and make the offering for your healing” (Mark 1.40-45)
In the Greek in which Mark wrote, there is an undercurrent of anger in Jesus. This is something most of our English translations miss. Jesus is not simply sorry about the man’s condition, and eager to put it right. He is angered – maybe even outraged – by it.
Why is this? Lepers are treated as the ultimate outcasts in Jesus’ society. If a “clean” person touched them, that person became unclean. By that law, when Jesus reaches touches the man, Jesus should become unclean rather than the leper becoming clean.
In casting out demons and curing lepers, Jesus proclaims God’s Kingdom as one of liberation – liberation from prejudice and injustice; liberation from the spiritual and physical forces which stop us flourishing. It is not an easy task. Jesus is crossing a boundary, challenging a taboo. He is placing himself next to those his society holds to be worthless.