If You Wish, You Can Make Me Clean

Feb 9, 2018

Gospel Reflection, 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B
Levitcus 13: 1-2, 44-46; 1 Corinthians 10:31 – 11:1; Mark 1: 40-45

If You Wish, You Can Make Me Clean


In Jesus’ time people suffering from leprosy were totally excluded.  They were not allowed to touch anyone and lived outside the villages.  If anyone came near them, unaware, they had to call out and warn them, “Unclean!  Unclean!”  Touching them was strictly forbidden, and if you did so, you made yourself “unclean”. 

Jesus did not share these fears.  He let the leper come up to him and he did not run away or drive the leper away.  On the contrary, he was moved to pity.  Even before Jesus cured him, a more important thing happened.  The leper was made to feel like a person again.  Here was someone who saw in the man with leprosy, not the threat of uncleanness, but a human brother, along with whom he was suffering and whose feelings he shared. 

Jesus’ example has moved others to follow his way.  Saint Damien de Veuster, a Belgian priest who lived in the late 1800’s was moved to care for the lepers of the island of Molokai near Hawaii.  The island was used to ship those who had fallen victim to the disease and they were abandoned and left to their miserable fate.  But Saint Damien volunteered to go to them and bring the message of the love of God.  He was active among them for many years until he himself contracted the disease and died in 1889.

Jesus and those who have followed him teach us that our charity toward those who we may naturally be inclined to recoil from need not despair of their own misery.  The leper in the gospel story had heard of Jesus and about his healings.  He had a strong new hope that drove him to Jesus saying, “If you wish, you can make me clean.”  This step of trusting is decisive and is not disappointing.  The bible calls this “believing”.  Do I believe that Jesus can heal my leprosy, my inner wounds, my burden of sin, or my torment of conscience?  Everything that, like leprosy, cuts me off from others and destroys my self-respect – do I really believe, as this leper did, that Jesus can heal me completely?

If I dare to take the step of going to Jesus, kneeling down before him and simply bringing all my afflictions to him, then he will say to me, too, “I do will it.  Be made clean.”


Father Tony