“If you wish, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand,
touched him, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.” (Mark 1:41)
This powerful encounter has always intrigued me, but now even more so since I saw a depiction of it on the TV show, The Chosen. If you haven’t seen it yet, I strongly recommend you check it out. This passage was depicted in Season 1, Episode 6, titled appropriately Indescribable Compassion.
Until seeing this episode there were so many things I totally missed in the story. I don’t think I ever imagined how much of an outcast a person with this diagnosis was during the time of Jesus. Having leprosy meant living outside the camp on your own with no protection as you watched your body decaying little by little. It meant having to cry out “unclean” whenever anyone came near and people trying to not even see you. It meant never having a hug or seeing someone smile at you. I can’t even imagine a single day like that, it would be unbearable.
Next, I don’t think I ever considered who this man was, but now I realize he was someone’s son. Was he also a husband? A father? What was his trade? Was he wealthy or poor? None of that mattered anymore though now that he had this horrible disease. He became known as just “a leper.” What a terrible burden of shame and isolation this man bore through no fault of his own.
If I am being honest, what struck me most in this scene was not the actual healing. Although modern special effects are pretty cool, it was the moment before Jesus healed the man that captured my attention. The moment where they show Jesus just seeing this man and this man realizing he is really being seen. Jonathan Rhoumie, the actor who plays Jesus, has such a beautiful way of showing complete and total love for this man; he does it with his eyes. It honestly brings me to tears each and every time I see it, and I have watched it more than a few times.
Finally, Jesus’ words to the man to “tell no one “Seemed unusual. Were people not going to question how the man no longer had this terrible disease? Was this only to keep the crowds from flocking to Jesus? Or was it to protect this man from those who wanted to hurt Jesus? God knew this man was going to go out and spread the news all over; yet, He still healed him. I don’t think I would have been able to keep that secret to myself either.
This reading comes to us on the last Sunday of Ordinary Time. It seems hard to believe that on Wednesday, Lent will begin, especially since I haven’t even taken down my Nativity scenes yet! How fitting this story is that leads us into Lent though; a time where God desires to heal us of our spiritual leprosy. Have we been feeling cast out because of our choices and struggles with sin? Will we seek His will for us also to be made clean through the gift of the Sacrament of Reconciliation? I know I will be; I pray you will also.
Loving, merciful Father, you see us; you always see us. Look lovingly on your children who are in need of healing. Some are struggling for the courage to come to you in their pain and shame. Please let them know that they are never beyond the reach of your grace. Help us all to enter Lent with an open heart, seeking your love and mercy. I ask this all in Jesus’ name. Amen.