Saturday, 14 February 2009

To approach Jesus in confession (Mk 1:40-45)

The Gospel of this Sunday tells us about a leper who comes to Jesus to be healed from his leprosy. This account shows the humility that the leper shows towards Jesus, when he beseeches him while kneeling before him and asks that "If you will, you can make me clean (Mar 1:40 RSV)". Sometimes I might find that I am more demanding from God that He does things, instead of humbly kneeling before him and to ask him to help me if He wants to.

However, I like to emphasise another aspect of this Gospel. The leper ask if Jesus can make him clean, so here there might be something deeper happening. Leprosy was, and is, a serious decease, and anybody who had leprosy was banned from the community. In the Jewish tradition leprosy is often associated with sin. For example we find Aaron and Miriam speaking out against Moses, and God punishes Miriam with leprosy (Num 12:1-10, Deut 24:9, also 2 Kings 5:27, 2 Kings 15:5 etc.).

So when the leper ask Jesus to clean him from the leprosy, we can also read that he asks forgiveness from his sins, the reason for his leprosy. Jesus has compassion on him, He was "
moved with pity (Mar 1:40 RSV)" , and so He is moved with pity towards all of us who are sinners (and all of us are). Jesus then stretched out His hand, and not only the leprosy left him, but he was also made clean... he was forgiven from the cause of this leprosy, his sins...

Jesus then sternly charges him and sent him away at once saying to him : "See that you say nothing to any one; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to the people (Mar 1:40 RSV)".

We can read that the leper ignores the bit that he should tell nobody, but I think that there might be a different, deeper interpretation for this as well. Jesus is very strong on this point, that the leper should go to the priest straight away. I don't think the fact that he shouldn't talk about it is that important, as the offering the healed leper is going to make to the priest is a proof to the people, so the story was going to come out anyway. He says "See that you say nothing to any one", in other words, do not delay!

I think the essence here is the foreshadow of confession, and the importance. It shows how important confession is, that it heals our body and soul, and that the priest is an important part of it. Jesus stretched out His hand, as does the priest in "persona Christi" during confession while giving absolution, and the leper is asked to make an offering, to do a penance, for his sins straight after he is cleansed.

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