Last week, there was a heavy focus on labor. Job, Paul, and Jesus all had great tasks ahead of them, but with faith in God pushed onward. This week is a little less thematic and a little more circular. We begin in Leviticus, where the Word of God is given to Moses and Aaron (Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46):
“The one who bears the sore of leprosy
shall keep his garments rent and his head bare,
and shall muffle his beard;
he shall cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean!’
As long as the sore is on him he shall declare himself unclean,
since he is in fact unclean.
He shall dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp.”
It is a sad fact of life that one must be forced out of a community due to anything that is for the most part out of their control, including a highly infectious disease. But, in order for the community as a whole to survive, rules must be laid out that clearly state how we keep outbreaks like that under control (for those of you into politics, this sounds like the recent national debate we had – and are still having – on vaccinations). However, today’s Gospel reading (Mark 1:40-45) brings it full circle:
A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said,
“If you wish, you can make me clean.”
Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand,
touched him, and said to him,
“I do will it. Be made clean.”
The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean.
Because it is through God that what is declared unclean (by those who represent Him, like Aaron and the other priests) can be made clean in the end by Him. This extends beyond disease, and is directly symbolic of the nature of sin. It renders us unclean – so much so that we are born with it as though it is passed to us by our parents – but in His presence, we can be washed clean of it.
Now, if you add all this to Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians in the second reading today (1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1), you get the ultimate means of redemption from sin: glorifying God in all you do.
Brothers and sisters,
Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do,
do everything for the glory of God.
Avoid giving offense, whether to the Jews or Greeks or
the church of God,
just as I try to please everyone in every way,
not seeking my own benefit but that of the many,
that they may be saved.
Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.
It is when we give what we do up for the Father and His Son that we become whole. Leprosy is a disease which makes its victims in a literal sense only part of a whole being. Sin is the same way. But in the case of both, through the power of God, offered through his Son, we have a chance to become whole again and look up him at the end of days.
Don’t think there’s a vaccination that is that good.