- First reading: Leviticus 13:1-2,44-46
- Psalm: 32:1-2,5,11
- Epistle: 1 Corinthians 10:31 – 11:1
- Gospel: Mark 1:40-45
He remained outside in deserted places, and people kept coming to him from everywhere.
Just prior to Holy Mass I noted that we enter the Pre-Lenten season of Septuagesima today.
This short two-and-a-half-week season is dedicated to preparation for our Lenten journey. It is a season of ‘cleaning out the old’ to make room for the new thing God has waiting for us.
The Hebrew term ẓaraʿat is traditionally rendered “leprosy” because of its Greek translation as “lepra.” The Greek word for leper covers a wide range of diseases that produced scales including many non-contagious types. Greek lepra may have included true leprosy but was not limited to it. It is likely that the banished, like the man who approached Jesus in today’s Gospel, were lifelong sufferers.
Leprosy was most often attributed to the sufferer’s sin. In scripture, whenever a reason is given for an attack of ẓaraʿat, it is in connection with a person challenging duly constituted authority. Miriam challenged the prophetic supremacy of Moses (Numbers 12); Gehazi disobeyed the will of his master Elisha (2 Kings 5); and King Uzziah challenged the exclusive prerogative of the priests to offer incense (2 Chronicles 26).
In this first week of Pre-Lent, let us consider our ẓaraʿat, the leprosy we carry from our challenges to God’s duly constituted authority and that imparted to His Holy Church by the Holy Spirit.
Did our spines and muscles tense just then. What do you mean I have to listen and follow, give up my way of doing things and do what God and that Church are telling me to do? Are you kidding me? I am free to decide! And there is our ẓaraʿat. It lives in our rebellious natures.
From Lucifer to Adam and Eve to the people of Babel and Abraham, to Miriam, Gehazi, and Uzziah, rebellion was the ẓaraʿat that needed to be cleansed in them.
Rebellion is the leprosy that needs to be cleansed in us. Rebellion is bitter, angry, violent, corrupt, and stubborn. It is contention and dispute, pridefulness. Rebellion defies God’s will and is the enemy’s bad fruit. It is the refusal to turn ourselves over to God.
We choose rebellion because we fear placing our complete trust in God. To solve rebellion in us, we must be wholeheartedly His. We must take the courage to step out and hand over everything to Christ.
Like the leper in today’s Gospel, we must ask Jesus to cleanse us. We must throw away the idol within our heart that says, ‘You cannot have me.’ Yes, we must come to Him from wherever we are, with our whole being, and beg to be cleansed of our ẓaraʿat.