Jesus and the Leper

Jesus Heals the Leper, by Rembrandt (1655-60)

12th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday (Year II)

Matthew 8:1-4

“Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.” 

The leper represents all of us in need of divine mercy. In the eyes of Jesus there are no untouchables, pariahs, outcasts or rejects. Our unnamed brother must have been deeply moved by all that he heard concerning Jesus to have approached him with so much confidence and devotion. Rabbis routinely shunned lepers, even stoned them. This leper knew that Jesus was more than a rabbi.

His hope was fulfilled beyond all expectation. Jesus broke the law of keeping distance from lepers, stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, “I will do it. Be made clean.” His leprosy was cleansed immediately.

In his excitement, the leper failed to keep silent about the miracle (Mark 1:40-44; Luke 5:12-14), driving Jesus to withdraw into solitary prayer in the wilderness as crowds sought him. Jesus had wanted the leper to quietly obtain a priest’s approval of the miracle, cooperating with the authority structures in place, rather than drawing attention to himself as a wonder worker. 

Jesus’ life was full of surprises, twists and turns as he interacted with free persons. Who knows how the story might have unfolded had the leper obeyed Jesus and kept silent. We are still in the story post-Resurrection and Pentecost. How will our everyday thoughts, decisions and actions move history forward? Even the most hidden “Fiat!” heard by the Father alone can change the world.


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