6th Sunday Ordinary Time - Year B
The disease called leprosy is a disfiguring illness in which ulcers and gangrene develop on human bodies. It is occasionally found in tropic areas, but is only slightly contagious. In ancient times people feared it so much that they labeled anything as leprous that even appeared to be infected. Thus conditions as widely ranging as mildew, rust and cancer were all grouped under its name.
Anyone infected with apparent symptoms were quarantined. They could lose their homes, families and careers. Priests were called upon to give victims detailed examinations. Their verdict could condemn people to a living hell.
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Jesus quickly gained a reputation as a healer and miracle-worker. This hindered his true mission which was to teach about love. On one a man afflicted with leprosy approached him to test the validity of this teaching. The common belief was that leprosy was highly contagious. People could drive lepers away by throwing rocks at them. Jesus had worked many of his cures by physically touching the afflicted. But did he have enough compassion to risk possible infection with leprosy? The answer: "Of course I do!" We might ask ourselves if we hold others at arm's length? Could we offer a helping hand to one from whom we recoil?
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