When Jesus had come down from the mountain, great crowds followed him; and there was a leper who came to him and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.’ He stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, ‘I do choose. Be made clean!’ Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. Then Jesus said to him, ‘See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.’
There is some kind of polarity in this passage: between public and private, between manifestation and concealment: “Great crowds followed him,” but he said, “Do not tell anyone.”
Talk (and especially gossip) creates a crowd. Talk is itself a kind of crowd – a crowd of words. Talk is endless, like the sand on the seashore. Like the sand, it drifts and blows here and there. Living today is like walking in a sandstorm of words (and here am I adding more!).
But Jesus told the healed leper to tell no one about his healing. In another passage he took a deaf man “aside in private, away from the crowd” (Mk 7:33). This tells us that sometimes it is necessary to stand in from the storm. Sometimes it is necessary to be alone and think one’s own thoughts. He himself frequently went away by himself to pray: Lk 4:42; 5:16; 6:12; Mk 1:35; etc. And there are moments when he tells others to keep silent about him: Mk 1:44; 8:30; Lk 9:21, and today's passage. And read the wonderful passage, Mt 6, in which everything is divided, so to speak, into two columns, headed "in secret" and "to be seen by others.” (See June 21). Why not meditate on this today: the silence of Jesus?
The ancient world was terrified of leprosy, and in its terror it probably mistook many less harmful skin diseases for it. By Jewish law the sufferer was isolated totally from society: “The leper...shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry, ‘Unclean, unclean’. He shall dwell alone in a habitation outside the camp” (Lev. 13:45f). No leper would ever have approached an orthodox rabbi, but the leper in this story approached Jesus confidently for help. This was exceptional, but even more exceptional was what followed: “Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him....” That touch healed him – healed his disease, yes, but healed also his feeling that he not only had a disease but was a disease; it healed his isolation, his loneliness, his despair, his belief that he was cursed by God.... It also made Jesus himself ‘unclean’ in the eyes of the Law. This is the God revealed in Jesus - a “Father of Mercies.”
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