‘If you want to, you can cure me …’ ‘Of course I want to, be cured!’
In the Roman Catholic Church, 11 February is the 26th World Day of Prayer for the Sick. Pope Francis invites us to pray for all who are isolated and marginalised by ill health:
The image of the Church as a ‘field hospital’ that welcomes all those wounded by life is a very concrete reality … The Church’s mission is a response to Jesus’s gift, for she knows that she must bring to the sick the Lord’s own gaze, full of tenderness and compassion.
(Message for the 26th World Day of the Sick 2018, issued Nov. 2017)
It is this same compassion the Lord shows towards the leper in today’s Gospel, by breaking down all the social and cultural barriers of his time.
As the Jews around Jesus were observing the same guidelines for self-preservation concerning lepers prescribed in the Old Testament (First Reading), lepers could not have been among the sick brought to Jesus in last week’s Gospel (Mark 1: 29–39). So in this case, the unfortunate man has to come himself and beg Jesus for a cure. Once healed, however, the leper cannot stop himself sharing his news with others – and in this way, Jesus himself is now considered ‘unclean’, and also becomes isolated.
We too, in praying the Psalm, can ask the Lord to cure us from all that separates us from others, by acknowledging our failings.
In the Second Reading, Paul similarly encourages us not to separate ourselves from those who do not know Christ. We should avoid behaving in a way that might shock them, and instead model ourselves on the Lord.
This week, then, I may want to pray especially for all those around me who are suffering and feel isolated, asking the Lord to cure them in body and mind.