The leper asked to be made clean (a spiritual healing), not cured of his disease (a physical healing). How odd was that? Not very when you consider to be made clean meant for him rejoining society, being readmitted to Temple worship, and not having to live outside towns and villages.
What compelled him to come to Jesus without crying out a warning that he was unclean? And what induced Jesus to reach out to touch the man by which action according to the Law he would be made unclean as well? Was it pity? It’s more than that. The word we translate as “pity” is so much stronger in Greek. Jesus was moved so deeply, gut wrenchingly so, that he restored the man to health and to relationships. In a case of supreme irony, the now clean leper could go anywhere he wanted, but Jesus would now remain outside in deserted places.
I think the key phrases in this episode are “If you wish” and “I do will it”. The first recognizes that the leper couldn’t do it alone but required Jesus’ intervention; the second shows Jesus’ willingness to come to the aid of the person in front of him.
As we approach the 2018 Lenten season, what are your and my wishes?
For example: “If you wish,” you can make me more patient, more charitable, or more giving. “If you wish” you can make me less judgmental, less controlling, or less greedy of my time for myself. “If you wish,” you can make me more or less anything I (you) can think of.
And Jesus responds, “I do will it.”
6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, B18