An Earth-shattering and .Heaven- Battering・ Utterance: :I Will;

First Reading (Lev 13:1-2,45-46) : The treatment of a leper
Second Reading: (1Cor 10:31-11:1) : Christians' behavior should not cause others to fall
Gospel (Mk 1:40-45) : Jesus heals a leper
Chinese Classics:
- :The feeling of commiseration is essential to human beings.;(1)
- :Emperor Chun Wai said, .Why not eat meat and congee?;(2)
- :Reading a million volumes of books is not as good as traveling a million miles;(3)

A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him :If you choose, you can make me clean.; Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, :I do choose. Be made clean!; Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. (Mk 1:40-42)

.If you choose, you can make me clean.・ .I do choose. Be made clean!・ How simple and touching is this conversation. Yet a vivid miracle had already taken place at the exchange of a request and an act of will, and a common understanding of intent.

.Friend, can I help you?・ .What can I do for you?・ These are examples of .I will do・ in our own lives. Sometimes, miracles in our lives come about from such simply voiced .I will do.・. Parents love their children this way, friends treat each other thus. That simple heartfelt .I will do・ has healed so many wounds, eased so much pain, dissolved so much hatred!

In today's Gospel, Jesus' .I do!・ cured a leper V a person who in the society of those days, no matter what his status or state in life, was the most pitiful of people. To understand better the situation of lepers then let us study today's first reading from the book of Leviticus: :When a person has on the skin of his body a swelling or an eruption or a spot, and it turns into a leprous disease on the skin of his body, he shall be brought to Aaron the priest or to one of his sons the priests. The person who has the leprous disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head be disheveled; and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, .Unclean, unclean.・ He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease; he is unclean. He shall live alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.; ( Lev 13:1-2,45-46 )

Lepers in the Jewish society of the time were indeed pitiful. They were expelled from healthy persons' society, could not be part of the masses, could not live with the rest of the populace. They were abandoned by society, truly :marginalized people;. They even had to hang a bell around their neck and call out constantly, .Unclean, unclean!・ so healthy people would not come close and perhaps become infected.

So today we see a leper coming forward to Jesus, kneeling down and earnestly begging Jesus to heal him. He had not the least doubt of Jesus' power to heal. He knew that if Jesus willed it, he would be healed. In reality Jesus not only had the power, he also had the will, because he saw the suffering of the leper and heard his plea. .His merciful heart was moved with pity.

Mencius said, :The feeling of commiseration is essential to people.; (1) (The Works of Mencius, Book 2, Kung Sun Chow, Part I, Chap. 6). How much more so Jesus, the most perfect human being, whose heart was filled with such great compassion and mercy.

The Cultural Revolution was a great disaster in Chinese history. However, the rationale for asking intellectuals to go to the mountains and countryside to be closer to ordinary people was a correct one. Sometimes, we do not have sympathy because we have neither seen nor heard, nor been in touch with the person or situation. Some intellectuals or wealthy persons live in .ivory towers・ with little or no understanding of the difficulties or sufferings of ordinary people.

Once there was an Emperor in Jun dynasty who heard that the starving people had :no rice; to eat. He asked, :Why don't they eat meat congee? He thought if they had no rice, wasn't it better to eat congee with meat flavoring? This is a classic example of a stupid emperor who knew nothing about the sufferings of his own people.

Today there is a training programme to help people learn how to develop greater empathy and understanding for other people. Its purpose is to raise awareness through life experience. It is called .Exposure・ or .Exposure-immersion・, that is, not only experiencing, but really immersing oneself deeply, .tasting・ a situation, actually living in the new, unknown circumstances, really hearing the other, trying to see life as another sees it, even perhaps living with those people for a period of time. The story is told of a Filipino nun who wanted to change society. After she arrived in the area, she did nothing except live quietly with the people there. After two years she began to carry out her blueprint to change society.

:Reading a million volumes of books is not as good as traveling a million miles.; (3) This sentiment is not only confined to knowledge. It applies also to developing sympathetic feelings for all created things and finding effective ways of showing kindness to others. Jesus felt sympathy and compassion for the leper. That was why he said, :I will.; Those two words :I will; were full of God・s saving grace and were as sweet as light showers.

After this .I do choose・, Jesus .stretched out his hand and touched him・. This touch should have rendered Jesus .unclean・ as that is what was said, that the one who touched an unclean person would be rendered unclean himself. But Jesus' touch of love brought only healing and salvation, both body and mind fully cleansed and restored to health.

The South American Bishops' Conference voted for the .Preferential option for the poor・. This spirit must have come directly from Jesus. Here we see Jesus' attention so fixed on the piteous, poor suffering person before him that he even forgot his own security and danger.

Are we also willing to say to Jesus, .Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.・?


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