Sunday 14 February 2021
Sunday 6 Year B
“Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched the leper.”
In these days of Covid there are very many people who suffer greatly from the absence of close contact with those who are dear to them. The stretching out of an affectionate hand brings healing and peace. It is a life-giving sign of gratitude and love. In the scene, the Gospel shows us it is very much more. The psalmist sings of the hands of God that formed us and are fashioning us. The Father is still working, and the Son is also working: the hands that made the leper now stretch out to him and remake all that was disfigured, restoring the fingers and the toes, the nose and the lips, the bushy beard. This is the figure of the new creation, when with awe we we shall behold all things made new. Already the gentle guest of our souls, the Holy Spirit, the finger of God’s right hand, is at work healing the spiritual leprosy that afflicts us all. The corrosive evils of anger, envy and hatred are cast out by the Spirit of love and the desire for peace. So it comes about that we are enabled to do everything for the glory of God.
The leper in the Gospel is rather more enthusiastic in his praise of God and his expressions of gratitude than Our Lord wanted. Already in this first chapter of St Mark’s Gospel Jesus has twice imposed silence on the evil spirits to good effect. The anguished cries of the possessed had ceased. The injunction, the kind request to the leper, did not carry the same authority. He who had been excluded from the community of Israel was able to return the society of his people. What a joy to tell his story, to explain his return to them. The roles were reversed and Our Lord was compelled to remain in desert. It was in the desert that Israel had learned to listen to the voice of God. There too, through the covenant, Israel had been espoused to the Lord. Outside the gate was the place where Our Lord was to suffer and, in suffering, heal the leprosy of the whole human race.
Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched the leper. His pierced hand is stretched out still, stretched out to save. The hands of God which made us continue to fashion us. God our Father is continually inviting us to a fuller life, pouring out his gifts upon us. Now that the days of the joyful and holy season of Lent are upon us we, too, may go out into the desert to be with the Master, for we are the sheep of his hand. There we can open the ears of our hearts to his healing and his teaching. There we be docile to the work of the Holy Spirit: let us be like the clay in the hands of the potter, renouncing our own will. Let us reach forward to the prize of the heavenly life that is set before us, so that when the final call comes we may rejoice to commend our souls into his hands.