Gospel for Sunday, February 14: Mark 1: 40-45
Mark 1: 40-45
40Then a leper came to him: he begged him on his knees and said: “If you want, you can heal me!”. 41Moved with compassion, he stretched out his hand, touched him and said: “I want it, get well!”. 42Immediately the leprosy disappeared and he was healed. 43And, admonishing him severely, he sent him back and said to him: 44“See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, present yourself to the priest, and offer for your purification what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” 45But he, having gone away, began to proclaim and spread the fact, to the point that Jesus could no longer enter a city publicly, but stayed outside, in deserted places, and they came to him from everywhere.
Mark 1: 40-45
Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Misericordie, I am Carlo Miglietta, doctor, biblical scholar, layman, husband, father and grandfather (www.buonabibbiaatutti.it).
Also today I share with you a short meditation thought on the Gospel, with special reference to the theme of mercy.
The leper was legally considered dead: healing a leper was bringing about a resurrection; healing a leper was a gesture that announced the advent of the Messiah. Furthermore, the leper is an impure person who had no equal: “44 That man is a leper; he is unclean and must be declared unclean; the plague is on his head. 45 The leper affected by leprosy will wear torn clothes and his head uncovered, he will cover his beard and will go shouting: «Unclean! Unclean!”. 46 He will be unclean as long as he has the plague; he is unclean, he will be alone, he will live outside the camp” (Lev 13,45-46).
Jesus breaks the Law of his Father, the Torah, the Law of the Old Testament: he touches an untouchable, he makes a revolutionary gesture. Let us look at this subversive Jesus, who queues with sinners, who lets himself be served by women, who chooses his disciples, who touches the untouchables.
The leper arrives, 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 Faith produces, 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 emotions, our “heart”: it is a plural form of réhèm , the maternal breast, the female uterus. It is the spontaneous feeling that arises from the bond of fatherhood, motherhood or brotherhood (Ps 103.13; Jer 31.20; Is 63.15-16).
Faced with every infirmity or need, Jesus “is moved”, “feels compassion”. They are very strong terms, which we find in the Gospels to express the Lord’s feelings towards the leper (Mk 1.41), the guideless and hungry crowds (Mk 6.34; 8.2), the people who cannot cope more (Mt 9.36), to the sick (Mt 14.14), to the widow of Naim (Lk 7.13)… The verb splanchnìzomai is always used, which indicates visceral emotion, which recalls the maternal womb: it is the a mother’s tremor for her children is a very intense emotion.
Pope John Paul II wrote: “Above all with his lifestyle and his actions, Jesus revealed how love is present in the world in which we live, active love, love that is aimed at man and he embraces everything that forms his humanity. This love is particularly noticeable in contact with suffering, injustice, poverty, with the entire historical human condition, which in various ways manifests the limitations and fragility of man, 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 miracle worker, 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 are called to this logic of the cross.
But the leper disobeys Jesus Christ who told him to keep quiet, and “going away, he began to proclaim and spread the fact, to the point that Jesus could no longer enter a city publicly, but stayed outside, in deserted places, and they came to him from everywhere.”
Beautiful, almost humorous: the poor, the marginalized become the first apostles. This man who was freed by the Lord carried out an apostolate, such propaganda that Jesus could no longer enter the city. May we too be so conquered by the Lord’s salvation that we become his 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, faithfulness to the Lord, being amazed at the Word. Sometimes it is precisely those we marginalize who save us: the discarded stone that becomes the cornerstone. Being with the poor is not paternalism: the poor can become the first heralds of the Gospel for us.
“He was outside in desert places” (v. 45): this is a great warning for us too. The Church does not always have to have a word for everything. She must know how to remain silent to announce a hidden Mystery, a hidden God; she must know how to announce a God who goes into the desert instead of going to perform miracles, a God whose logic is not our logic.
This God is not ours: we belong to God. We belong to God, it is he who guides history.
One wish we can make is that we know how to be with God in the silence of his desert, to be internally unified from our schizophrenia, freed from our demons, and therefore become joyful heralds, with concrete gestures, of the Kingdom that is coming.
Happy Mercy to all!
Anyone who would like to read a more complete exegesis of the text, or some insights, please ask me at email@example.com.