Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
06 Feb 2024

Reading I: Lv 13:1-2, 44-46
Psalm 32:1-2, 5, 11
Reading II: 1 Cor 10:31—11:1
Gospel: Mk 1:40-45



As we conclude the first Ordinary Time of the year and prepare for the beginning of Lent, we continue to hear Mark the Evangelist report the miraculous healings that Jesus performed in Galilee. For several weeks we have witnessed Jesus cure a man possessed by demons, then last week he cured Simon’s mother-in-law, and in this the sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time Jesus cures a leper who seeks him out.

This Sunday’s readings took me back to 2020 when with the emergence of Covid-19 we added phrases like “shelter in place” and “social distance” to our daily vocabulary. We were told by scientists to avoid contact with those who contracted covid and as time went by, they were able to tell us what sort of distance we should maintain and for what period of time before being re-integrated with others. In essence, levitical law similarly called for anyone afflicted with leprosy, which included a broad spectrum of skin diseases, to shelter in place. The difference between now and then was that exclusion from the community was not only based on the risk of contagion but rather more importantly at that time, a belief in a certain unworthiness to participate in communal worship that could eventually be removed through a ritual cleansing.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus encounters a man with leprosy in a society where avoiding people with this condition was considered virtuous thus increasing the tendency to marginalize those with such afflictions. Nonetheless, the leper is so convinced that Jesus could heal him that he approaches him. Jesus is so deeply moved with pity for the leper that he touches him and heals him.. We might also want to consider that at that time, if allowed to stay in the community, lepers were considered a reminder for others of their own frailty and mortality. Casting out lepers was a social mechanism (even if unconscious) that protected the community from facing this. If this wasn’t enough, today’s reading from the book of Leviticus describes that once a person was declared to be unclean, he was required to make this known publicly. The presence of a leper in the community would force the rest to acknowledge and face their own vulnerability, their sickness, and their own shortcomings.

Perhaps in our time, it continues to be in our human nature to want to hide our weakness and our sinful ways. Perhaps the worst of it is that we can hide them from ourselves and would rather protect the image we project than to face the truth of who we are. The leper in today’s Gospel can remind us that Christ can only touch and heal what we bring before him, our sinfulness, our sickness, and our shortcomings. If we do not acknowledge these before Christ with honesty, we might never truly encounter Him. We never really hear of Jesus reaching out to touch and to heal someone who is not vulnerable and yet there are plenty of examples of those who knew they needed Him. So, who might be the lepers in our midst that we would rather keep out of sight because they might remind us of our shortcomings and our need for healing? As we approach the season of Lent may we take the opportunity to approach Jesus with our vulnerabilities in hand and with honesty encounter His healing power.


Marco Lopez, MTS

Director, Oscar Romero Scholars Program