Today’s gospel reading comes from Mark 1:40-45: “A leper came to [Jesus] begging him, and kneeling he said to him, ‘If you choose, you can make me clean.’ Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I do choose. Be made clean!’ Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, saying to him, ‘See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.’ But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.”
Before Jesus does anything, we read that he is “moved with pity.” The Greek, splagchnizomai (say that quickly five times!), speaks of a very strong emotion. It’s also translated as “moved with anger.” It’s something you feel from the gut. So is Jesus pissed off at this miserable wretch?
It’s important to bear in mind that, in Jesus’ day, touching a leper was forbidden. People were supposed to give them a wide berth. But as the Sacred Space website reminds us, “Jesus cuts through religious taboo and harsh judgments on people with his own loving healing…Surely the leper was cleansed from more than physical illness by this touch—he was assured of personal human dignity.” Jesus’ outrage isn’t directed at this poor leper. He’s furious about the indignity heaped upon him.
I suppose we should ask ourselves, where is our compassion…where is our indignation when confronted with the reality of those we would rather shut away and ignore?