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‘Jesus stretched out His hand’

The following story appeared in the February 9 Idaho Catholic Register.

By Padre Enrique Terriquez


Mark 1:40-45


With quite emotive details, St. Mark invites us to understand the mission for which Jesus came (Mark: 1, 38) “Let’s go elsewhere... to preach there, too...” The reading of Leviticus for today (Lev. 13: 1-2, 44-46), gives us the guideline to understand the attitude of Jesus. Leprosy, considered a personal sin, was punished by expulsion from community life. The law forbade, under penalty of being “legally impure,” approaching lepers. The leper’s well-known suffering for his permanent isolation made life for him unbearable.

Without identifying the leper by name, and without mentioning any place in Galilee, he jumps to the scene begging Jesus: “If you want, you can heal me.”


No doubt this man knows that Jesus can heal him, because he is seeking only freedom. Here it seems, the style of St. Mark is to speak of the liberating mission of Jesus: both the leper and Jesus defy that law of exclusion against lepers. No one can prevent healing to those who want to live fully: “If you wish” is the answer of Jesus, reaching out to the one who is still begging. It is the same creative word of Genesis: God spoke, and it was done.


The leper was “on his knees,” not daring to look at Jesus. He was an “impure” man, knowing that he is forbidden to approach anyone. From the ground prostrate, he begs for an end to such horrendous isolation. “On your knees” is also a way to recognize in Jesus the One who comes to cure him. And, this attitude, says St. Mark, moves Christ in his innermost being. He has compassion, as the Hebrew people understood it, just like a mother is moved by the son of her womb. How can He not be thrilled by the One who is not only Life but the giver of life as well? Yes, I want to be clean! And so it was.


Because this man is completely cured, he becomes the first apostle of St. Mark. This is the point in time when the “messianic secret” may be understood as a known “secret” for all. Who can be silent about a manifestation so clearly from God?” We would have to proclaim that Jesus of Nazareth was the anointed of God! It is not known whether this man was to appear before the priests to let them know what Jesus wanted them to know. He would let them know that Jesus puts the person above the law, and not the other way around. God wants to heal the world from exclusions.


This healing breaks the anonymity of Jesus. He can no longer enter the villages. By healing the “impure,” Jesus Himself becomes excluded.


And yet, people flock to him from other places. This is Jesus, who without leaving His divine nature, emptied himself by becoming our slave, St. Paul tells us. Jesus has been fully identified with us in everything but sin. He continues to live communion with the millions and millions of marginalized in our world.


This Gospel reading challenges followers of Christ to always reach out to others, to identify with their needs, and not to lock ourselves into an exclusive club. Even worse, would be to exclude anyone in the name of Christ.


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