by Fr. Tommy Lane
The leper in the Gospel (Mark 1:40-45) left civilization because of his illness. He had no choice but to leave his town or village and warn people of his condition if they came near him. When Moses’ sister Miriam got leprosy, she is described by the Book of Numbers (12:12) “as one dead,” and she received her leprosy as a punishment for rebelling against Moses. As soon as the leper in the Gospel was diagnosed with his illness, it was as if he had died and we can imagine some would have wondered what sin he had committed. He could no longer live with his family. He could no longer worship in his local synagogue or go to the temple. But in the midst of this terrible pain and suffering he wisely decided to approach Jesus. We are not sure how he heard about Jesus but he had faith in Jesus to help him. He made a decision to go to Jesus and that was the beginning of the turnaround in his life. Had he not gone to Jesus, he would have remained in his pitiable condition and continued to deteriorate. Going to Jesus changed everything in his life.
When he met Jesus he had a conversation with Jesus, “if you wish, you can make me clean.” (Mark 1:40) As a result of this conversation, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him and healed him. So now we see a second necessary element in the turnaround in his life. The first was his decision to go to Jesus and the second was his conversation with Jesus. His conversation with Jesus was an admission that his life was in a mess, “if you wish, you can make me clean.” Admitting his need before Jesus brought him healing and wholeness. That happens to us also every time we have a conversation with Jesus, every time we pray. Our prayer is our conversation with Jesus when he stretches out his hand to touch us and bring us new life. Many of you have read spiritual books by Jacques Philippe and in Thirsting for Prayer wrote,
It is prayer that will give birth to all
the renewals, healings, deep and fruitful transformations we all
want for society today. This world of ours is very sick, and only
contact with heaven will be able to cure it. The most useful thing
for the Church to do today is to give people a thirst for prayer and
teach them to pray.
(Thirsting for Prayer Kindle Location 81)
Pope St. John Paul II in Novo millennio ineunte said that Christian communities must become genuine schools of prayer (§33) and that education in prayer should become in some way a key-point of all pastoral planning (§34).This morning’s Gospel is an ideal Gospel passage to guide people in prayer in parish groups. I have used it in many parish groups and it is always a big hit. I invite the people to take the place of the leper, to go before Jesus and I guide them having a conversation with Jesus. Using a Gospel passage like this helps people to enter into prayer with Jesus and be renewed.
The leper went from being as one dead to being able to live with his family again and participate in society because he made a decision to go to Jesus and have a conversation with Jesus. May the Lord grant us the grace to go to him every day and have a conversation in prayer with him.
© Fr. Tommy Lane 2019