February 11, 2024
Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B
(Mk 1: 40-45)
In last Sunday's Gospel reading, we witnessed the healing of Simon's mother-in-law. Once healed of her fever, she goes to serve her guests. Hence, bringing to completion the work of healing and salvation that Jesus had begun in her (Mk 1:31): the ripe fruit of the encounter with the Lord is not a return to her former life, but a new beginning, to be precise, it's a conversion (cf. Mk 1:15), to be granted new life through salvation.
We can draw a parallel with the events in today's Gospel (Mk 1:40-45): Jesus heals again, this time, a man stricken with leprosy, and asks Jesus for a new beginning, which is granted to him through the order to go to the priest and offer what the Law prescribed to attest to the healing.
This might sound like something very different from what happened to Peter's mother-in-law.
In fact, it is not.
The man, sick with leprosy, was a man excluded from worship, relationships, and the life of the people of Israel. From the Law, he had to observe only the rules that decreed his exclusion.
Therefore, Jesus sends him back into the life of the people, which comes through the Law. Because a free man, a saved man, is a man who keeps the Law, and who is responsible, like his brothers, for the good of all. The Law, for Israel, is the way of life, is the acceptance of the covenant as the foundation of one's existence.
And the healed leper is invited to take responsibility for the covenant with God.
For this man, the purpose of his healing is to re-enter as a responsible adult back into society and life.
We said that the lepers were outcasts, ghettoized: they wanted, therefore, to live the fullness of their faith life, but they could not.
After all, this is what the leper says to Jesus, "If you will, you can" (Mk. 1:40), acknowledging to him a freedom that he knows he does not have.
He would like to, but he cannot.
However, the interesting thing is that in healing him, Jesus does not stop there. He does not simply give him a chance back in life, which he was denied, or a freedom that he had lost.
By sending him back to fulfill the requirements of the Law, he adds a step that leads to the culmination of a saved life.
It is the step of duty, responsibility, and obedience, as the highest form of love.
Then, not only, "If you will, you may." But also, "If you will, if you now can, then you must."
If Simon's mother-in-law wants to put her life at the service of her guests; Once she is healed, she can do so, then she must.
So it is first of all for Jesus, who first obeys the will of the Father, the will that wants every man saved.
And so it is for every healed, for every saved, because salvation is first and foremost a demanding responsibility, one that commits your life to making every possibility a duty.
It is not a comfortable life that of the healed.
This is perhaps the most difficult passage, as is also evident from the fact that the leper, healed, does not obey the Lord's peremptory command.
This may perhaps tell us that the healing of the heart, the birth of a "purified" conscience (cf. Mk 1:40), capable of obeying the Law of love, is a long and sometimes painful process, not free from falls and mistakes.
And if we are in a hurry to feel healed, we risk forgetting that true healing calls for the silence of a long maturation, like that of a seed that slowly grows.
Only from this silence, are the words of healing born.
Today's passage ends with a kind of reversal: the leper enters the city, and Jesus remains outside (Mark 1:45). For Jesus, unlike the healed leper, goes all the way to the compassion he feels toward the wounded mankind, to that "duty" of solidarity with his brothers and sisters, which leads him to share, in everything, without discount, our pain and loneliness.
And it is there, in this deep sharing of all we are, that Jesus becomes truly accessible to all: "And they came to him from all sides" (Mark 1:45).