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Gospel for Sunday, February 11: Mark 1:40-45

VI Sunday B

40 Then a leper came to him: he begged him on his knees and said, “If you want, you can heal me!” 41 Moved with compassion, he stretched out his hand, touched him and said, “I will, heal him!” 42 Immediately the leprosy disappeared and he was healed. 43 And admonishing him sternly, he sent him back and said, 44 “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, present yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony for them.” 45 But those, having departed, began to proclaim and spread the fact, to the point that Jesus could no longer enter a city publicly, but stood outside in deserted places, and they came to him from all sides”.

Mk 1:40-45

Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Misericordie, I am Carlo Miglietta, doctor, biblical scholar, layman, husband, father and grandfather ( Also today I share with you a short meditation thought on the Gospel, with special reference to the theme of mercy.

The leper legally was considered a dead person: to heal a leper was to effect a resurrection; to heal a leper was an act that heralded the coming of the Messiah. Moreover, the leper was an unclean person who had no equal: “44 That fellow is a leper; he is unclean and shall declare him unclean; the plague is on his head. 45 The leper who is stricken with leprosy shall wear torn garments and his head uncovered, and he shall cover his beard and go shouting, “Unclean! unclean!” 46 He shall be unclean as long as he has the plague; he is unclean, he shall stand alone, he shall dwell outside the camp” (Lev 13:45-46).

Jesus breaks his Father’s Law, the Torah, the Old Testament Law: he touches an untouchable, he makes a revolutionary gesture. Let us look at this subversive Jesus, standing in line with sinners, being served by women, choosing disciples himself, touching untouchables.

The leper comes, kneels down and says, “If you want, you can heal me.” Faith is the condition for the miracle. Beautiful! It is not the miracle that produces Faith, the miracle is not propaganda to make people believe, but it is by adhering to Christ, it is by kneeling before him that I am healed of my leprosy.

“Moved with compassion he stretched out his hand”(v. 41): the verb is splanchnisthèis, the Greek version of the Hebrew rehamin, a term that properly expresses the bowels, the seat of the emotions, our “heart”: it is a plural form of réhèm, the maternal breast, the female womb. It is the spontaneous feeling that arises from the bond of fatherhood, motherhood or brotherhood (Sl 103:13; Jer 31:20; Is 63:15-16).

In the face of any infirmity or need, Jesus “is moved,” “feels compassion.” These are very strong terms, which we find in the Gospels to express the Lord’s feelings when confronted with the leper (Mk 1:41), the leaderless and hungry crowds (Mk 6:34; 8:2), the people who can’t take it anymore (Mt 9:36), the sick (Mt 14:14), the widow of Naim (Lk 7:13)… The verb splanchnìzomai is always used, indicating visceral emotion, recalling the mother’s womb: it is the trembling of a mother for her children; it is a most intense emotion.

Pope John Paul II wrote, “Above all, by his lifestyle and actions, Jesus revealed how love is present in the world in which we live, working love, love that reaches out to man and embraces everything that forms his humanity. Such love is particularly noticeable in contact with suffering, injustice, poverty, with the whole historical human condition, which in various ways manifests man’s limitedness and frailty, both physical and moral. Precisely this manifestation of divine love is called, in biblical language, mercy.”

Jesus rejects those who accept him as a glorious thaumaturge without having first understood the logic of the cross. Even the poor, even the oppressed, even the lepers, must understand this logic. Poverty has value in itself, it has value of detachment: even the poor is called to this logic of the cross.

But the leper disobeyed Jesus Christ who told him to be quiet, and “departing, he began to proclaim and spread the fact, to the point that Jesus could no longer enter a city publicly, but stood outside in deserted places, and they came to him from all sides.”

Beautiful, almost humorous: the poor, the marginalized become the first apostles. This man who was delivered by the Lord did such apostolate, such propaganda that Jesus could no longer enter the city. May we, too, be so won over by the Lord’s salvation that we become its irrepressible heralds and witnesses!

We must remember that it is the poor who evangelize us. They are the ones who teach us the value of life, the value of smiling, sharing, being together, being faithful to the Lord, being amazed at the Word. Sometimes it is precisely those we marginalize that save us: the discarded stone that becomes a cornerstone. Being with the poor is not paternalism: the poor can become the first proclaimers of the Gospel for us.

“He stood outside in deserted places” (v. 45): this is a great admonition for us as well. The Church does not always have to have a word for everything. It must know how to be silent in order to proclaim a hidden Mystery, a hidden God; it must know how to proclaim a God who goes off into the wilderness instead of going out to do miracles, a God whose logic is not our logic.

This God is not ours: we belong to God. We belong to God; he is the one who guides history.

One wish we can make for ourselves is that we know how to be with God in the silence of his desert, to be inwardly unified from our schizophrenias, freed from our demons, and thus become joyful heralds, with concrete gestures, of the coming Kingdom.

Happy Mercy to all!

Anyone who would like to read a more complete exegesis of the text, or some insights, please ask me at


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