VI Sunday in Ordinary Time
“Laudato Si’ Journey – Sunday Gospel”
Sunday, February 11th
VI SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – CYCLE B
Mk 1, 40-45
The gospel of this sixth Sunday closes the first chapter of Mark’s gospel and the close-knit narrative of Jesus’ mission. It is a text full of transgressions, which tells us about the human soul and how indomitable it can be.
The leper ultimately represents each of us, our humanity and the fragility of creatures who need to be touched by God’s caress, even at the cost of great personal effort or the judgment of others. The ‘limit’ therefore becomes the point of contact, sometimes thanks to that very transgression.
“A leper came to him” is already a scandalous act in itself: no leper can allow himself to approach anyone. Indeed, they have to stay away from the city, wearing distinctive clothes and bells that warn others of their presence. They are clearly impure and cannot have contact with anyone. But Jesus, in last Sunday’s Gospel, said “Let us go on to the nearby villages”, almost as if He has a desire to seek out human suffering and provide relief. Here there is a desire for a relationship, which applies to both the leper and also to Jesus. I can get closer to God, not because I am good and observant, but because I am a sinner: just like the leper, later the woman afflicted with hemorrhages also feels the need to get closer to him. Such is the leper’s desperation and desire to be set free that he says, “If you wish, you can make me clean!”
Jesus’ response is extremely clear and direct: “I do will it. Be made clean!” Many times, God speaks to us with incredible clarity, but we are the ones who complicate our lives. Jesus’ gestures, which anticipate these words, confirm this clarity. First of all, he is moved, he is not indifferent to our cry: without this starting point, there would be no follow up. The beautiful thing about Mark’s text is that it says ὀργισθεὶς ἐκτείνας, that is, literally “with extreme anger”, nothing but emotion! God gets angry at the exclusion of this person, which moves his hand to go against the grain. In fact, He immediately “stretched out his hand, touched him,” he shouldn’t do it of course.. he could contract leprosy himself. Illness and exclusion become the point of contact between God and man.
The leprosy left him “immediately”, the word εὐθὺς returns which seems to mark the accelerated pace of the first verses of the Gospel of Mark, followed by a strange reaction from Jesus: “warning him sternly”; in reality it says ἐμβριμησάμενος αὐτῷ, that is, insulting him, snorting, filled with disgust. From Jesus there is not only a warning, but the desire to dismiss him….to give this brother true freedom! The risk, after years of marginalization and dependence, was that this healed man might feel a new dependence on Jesus. But He doesn’t want dependence. In fact, a few verses earlier, he had said he would go elsewhere so as not to create places of dependence.
And here is the other transgression: the healed man, rather than tell no one anything, begins to “publicize the whole matter”. More than “the matter”, he proclaims τὸν λόγον, that is, the Word, the term that Mark uses to indicate the core of the gospel. Until that moment, the only one announcing was Jesus. Now this reborn man becomes the center of the announcement. This contact makes the leper a living man and makes Jesus similar to a leper, “so much so that Jesus could no longer enter a city publicly, but remained outside, in deserted places”. God truly loves us to death! In the desert of Creation, Jesus finds the ideal place to live in the announcement and transgression of the leper while continuing to seek relationship, contact and love towards his creatures who come to him from all over.
Let us pray to the Lord today, on this Sunday, so that like Francis of Assisi, we may say: “In the same way, even if you were more handsome and richer than everyone else, and even if you worked miracles so that you put demons to flight: all these things are contrary to you; nothing belongs to you; you can boast in none of these things. But we can boast in our weaknesses and in carrying each day the holy cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (FF 154).
We warmly wish you a good Sunday, accompanied by the word of the Lord!