A Leper like Naaman

Jesus in the Synagogue at Nazareth. James Tissot

The cure of the leper – the reading from Luke’s Gospel for today –  is one of the first miraculous cures Jesus works in his ministry. We will read of the leper’s cure again next Thursday from Mark’s Gospel, from which Luke takes the story.

Speaking to the people of Nazareth – yesterday’s reading from Luke – Jesus told them the Spirit of the Lord was upon him “to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free…” The isolated leper, condemned to a lonely existence away from his family and community, was an example of those whom Jesus came to set free.

The leper is a Jew, we see, because he’s told to go show himself to the priest to obtain proof of his cure. But in his speech in the synagogue at Nazareth in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus speaks of a gentile leper who was cured: Naaman, the Syrian. He does not limit his ministry to Israel; he brings good news to all. 

I suppose these two readings from Luke for Wednesday and Thursday were chosen for this week when we celebrate the Feasts of the Epiphany and the Baptism of Jesus to emphasize the mission of Jesus to the whole human family.

Our first reading from the Letter of John says “This is the one who came through water and Blood, Jesus Christ, not by water alone, but by water and Blood.”  Surely, this means that Jesus went into the waters of the Jordan to bring life to all of creation too.

This week’s readings, taken from all four gospels and the 1st Letter of John, prepare for readings from Mark’s Gospel that further describe the ministry of Jesus, read on the coming weekdays until Ash Wednesday.  

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