If You Wish

Scripture Reading

A leper came to him and kneeling down begged him and said,
“If you wish, you can make me clean.”
Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand,
touched the leper, and said to him, 
“I do will it. Be made clean.”
The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean.
Then, warning him sternly, he dismissed him at once.
Then he said to him, “See that you tell no one anything,
but go, show yourself to the priest
and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed;
that will be proof for them.”
The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter.
He spread the report abroad
so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly.
He remained outside in deserted places,
and people kept coming to him from everywhere.
(Mark 1:40-45)


Scripture Study

1:40 a leper: Leprosy was a skin disease that made victims unclean, i.e., unfit to participate in the liturgical life of Israel (Lev 13:1–8). Because ritual uncleanness was considered contagious under the Old Covenant—infecting everyone who came in contact with it—lepers were isolated from society to keep those who were clean separated from those who were unclean (Lev 13:45–46). Jesus reaches across this divide when he touches the leper, and though others would be defiled by such contact, he conquers the uncleanness by the greater power of his holiness (1:41; CCC 1503–5).

1:44 say nothing to any one: The “messianic secret” is a leading theme in Mark. Jesus frequently enjoins silence on demons (1:25, 34; 3:12) and men (5:43; 7:36; 8:30; 9:9) to conceal his identity as the Messiah (CCC 439). Several considerations account for this strategy. (1) Jesus wanted to avoid a sensationalist reputation of being no more than a wonder-worker. Publicizing his deeds by word of mouth comes with the danger that rumors will begin to disconnect his miracles from his saving message. (2) He wanted to sidestep popular expectations that the Messiah would be a political and military leader. (3) He did not wish to ignite the wrath of his enemies before the appointed time of his Passion. See introduction: Themes. show yourself: The Mosaic Law required Levitical priests to inspect lepers and determine their status as clean or unclean (Lev 14:1–32). With approval, an individual pronounced clean would offer sacrifices at the Temple to be reinstated in the worshiping community of Israel.[1]

Scripture Reflection

Friends, our Gospel for today has to do with Jesus’ healing of a leper. Leprosy frightened people in ancient times—as contagious and mysterious diseases frightened people up until modern times. But more than this, it rendered someone unclean and therefore incapable of engaging in the act of worship. It is not accidental that the person who should do the examining of the patient in ancient Israel should be the priest.

The man who knelt before Jesus and begged for a cure was not simply concerned about his medical condition; he was an Israelite in exile from the temple—and hence he was a very apt symbol of the general condition of scattered, exiled, wandering Israel. In curing him, Jesus was, symbolically speaking, gathering the tribes and bringing them back to the worship of the true God.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV. 


[1]  Curtis Mitch, “Introduction to the Gospels,” in The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: The New Testament (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010), 67.