Reflections on readings for Feb. 11, Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Lv 13:1-2, 44-46

Ps 32:1-2, 5, 11

1 Cor 10:31-11:1

Mk 1:40-45

Most of us struggle to keep up with new year resolutions if we make them. I've fallen behind on my spiritual resolutions already! Thanks be to God that the Lenten season approaches. For in the coming weeks, the church invites us to return to the Lord with our whole heart, mind, and soul. We are given yet another chance to encounter God's mercy and to renew our resolve to become disciples of Jesus.

In the Gospel, Jesus heals a leper who approaches him with a confident request. In Jesus' day, lepers were sharply ostracized from the community. They were forced to live outside cities and towns and were generally excluded from normal activities of life. The first reading from Leviticus describes how lepers were declared unclean by the priest, were required to dress in a way that clearly identified them as outcasts and were commanded to stay outside the camp.

Within that social context, a leper was truly helpless. Their helplessness came not only from the fact that there were no cures or medicines for their condition. Lepers were helpless because society had no place for them, saw them as having no worth and treated them with little value or dignity as a person.

St. Mark tells us that Jesus was moved with pity at the leper's condition. As we ponder God's word, we contemplate what it meant for Jesus to be moved with pity for the sick. And we reflect on how we, too, stand in need of Jesus' healing love today.

Jesus knew well that the leper's physical disease had resulted in a much deeper sickness -- the wound of rejection, loneliness and despair. The mission and purpose of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection is to free humanity from this deepest of wounds -- our separation from God. Jesus was sent by his heavenly Father to reconcile humanity to friendship with God so we would not suffer helplessness, alienation, and despair wrought by sin.

In the face of sickness, disappointment, and rejection -- and even our own weaknesses and failures -- we face the same vulnerability of the leper in the Gospel. So, as we return to the Lord this Lenten season with renewed faith and trust in God's healing mercy, we make the words of the psalmist our own as he prays, "I turn to you, Lord, in time of trouble, and you fill me with the joy of salvation."

May this Lent be a graced time to grow in trust that, like the leper who encountered Jesus, we, too, will encounter the fullness of God's mercy and healing love. For Jesus desires to heal each of us who approach him in faith as we pray, "speak to me, Lord."

Question: What healing do I seek from Jesus today?

- Jem Sullivan holds a doctorate in religious education and is an associate professor of Catechetics in the School of Theology and Religious Studies at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.