BREAD FOR THE JOURNEY
Saying no to temptation
by Rev. Dr. Lourdino A. Yuzon

A leper asked Jesus for relief from his desperate condition. “If you will, you can make me clean” (Mark 1:40). In beginning his address to Jesus with an IF, did the leper imply that although he believed that Jesus had the power to heal the sick, he was not sure about the willingness of Jesus to help him? If that was what he felt, then he approached Jesus not with faith but with doubt. However, the nuanced tone of his request suggests that he approached Jesus with respect and faith. He did not impose a demand on Jesus. “If you will…” implies that he respected and trusted Jesus more than doubted him.

The faith of the leper was evident in the risks he took. In the days of Jesus, people reacted to the presence of lepers in fear and hostility. Although they did not have the knowledge, skills and tools that modern medical science provides, they knew how terrible leprosy was. They took extreme measures to protect themselves. In some instances, lepers were put to death even by their own family. On the edge of large cities of ancient times, huge pits were dug into which lepers were banished for the rest of their lives. Not only did they suffer extreme physical pain and slow, agonizing death, they also were completely separated from their society and community of faith. In their life of isolation and misery, their only hope was God. One of them saw Jesus as his only hope in life. That could have been the reason why he took great risks. He left his hovel, sauntered down the back alleys and somehow managed to elbow himself through the crowed of people and kneeled before Jesus. He pursued Jesus with bold faith.

When Jesus saw the leper in a state of helplessness and submission, he responded in a twostep process. First, moved with genuine pity, Jesus did not respond with scornful rebuke; neither did he judge the leper and say that his sickness was due to his sins. Secondly, Jesus acted out his compassion by doing something that was considered radical in those days. Immediately, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him and said, “I do choose. Be made clean.” Nothing less than a personal touch with a person in need of his compassionate heart and caring hands would satisfy Jesus.

In a complex social situation in which we live, it has become increasingly difficult for us to relate to others on intimate, inter-personal levels. Instead, we feel that it is enough to express our acts of compassion through social service organizations. There is nothing inherently wrong about that, but its shortcoming is that we cannot connect personally with our needy and hurting fellow human beings. “There is no adequate substitute for outstretched hands and outstretched lives. No committee or organization can supplant them. Without them, the nerve of compassion atrophies.” (Halford Luccock).


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