Lev 13:1-2, 44-46; 1 Cor 10:31 – 11:1; Mk 1:40-45
The novel "Untouchable" written by Mulk Raj Anand gives a touching account of the plight of the untouchables in India. The story is narrated by Bakha who is a hard working boy who never disobeys his father despite his repugnance for him and his lifestyle. Bakha endures one of the most humiliating and depressing days of his young life in this story. From sunrise on he is forced to deal with discrimination, hatred and hypocrisy. He is woken this early morning by his father’s shouts. The first chore of the day is to clean the latrines before the rest of the community gets up to use them. When Bakha sleeps in he is chided by a local man who wants to use the toilet, "Why aren't the latrines clean, you rogue of a Bakhe!
More humiliation is in store for Bakha before his day is out. His curiosity takes him to a local temple, where he climbs the steps to get a glimpse of the wonders inside. Untouchables are not allowed to see the inside of the temple for purity reasons. While Bakha was peering through the window he was interrupted by the priestshouting, "Polluted! Polluted! ". Soon a crowd had gathered and they all berated Bakha saying they would need to perform a purification ceremony. Bakha ran down to the courtyard where his sister was waiting.
The story goes on to show even more examples of the harsh treatment of untouchables. This book exposes the hardships that the untouchables have to face. Nothing in their lives is made easy.
All three readings of today contain the Christian teaching on the need for social acceptance even when people are different from us. The first reading shows the ancient Jewish attitude toward leprosy and the rules for quarantining lepers. This provides a background for Jesus' healing of a leper. According to the Mosaic Law leapers had to dress in torn clothes, keep their hair unkempt, and their life became a life long period of mourning and estrangement.
Mark simply states "A leper came to him and pleaded on his knees."
He saw that Jesus was his only hope, so he dared to break the rule forbidding to go close to people.
"Feeling sorry for him, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him."
The leper had broken a rule; Jesus broke another. No Jew would have ever touched a leper. The mere touch rendered him legally impure. Jesus ignored the law. Then Jesus asked him to go to the priests to be instated into the society.
Man is not meant to be alone; he needs a family, he needs friends, he needs to belong to a community to be really happy. But when sin and selfishness enter man's life, they estrange man from God, they estrange man from his society and they estrange man from himself.
First of all, sin separates us from God. When Adam ate the forbidden fruit and disobeyed the command of God, he was overtaken by fear; and he fled from the presence of God. He hid himself from the presence of God. When God called him, he said that he was hiding from him. When Cain killed his brother, Abel God called him. Cain answered that he was hiding from God.
"In 1992, a Los Angeles County parking control officer came upon a brown El Dorado Cadillac illegally parked next to the curb on street-sweeping day.
The officer dutifully wrote out a ticket. Ignoring the man seated at the driver's wheel, the officer reached inside the open car window and placed the $30 citation on the dashboard.
The driver of the car made no excuses. No argument ensued-and with good reason. The driver of the car had been shot in the head ten to twelve hours before but was sitting up, stiff as a board, slumped slightly forward, with blood on his face. He was dead.
The officer, preoccupied with ticket-writing, was unaware of anything out of the ordinary. He got back in his car and drove away.
There was an Indian prince who was a leper, but his leprosy was known to very few. When he appeared in public, he always wore a large jewel on his forehead, which sparkled and glittered in the light of the many lamps in his court. Only when he was alone did he remove the jewel, and then his mirror revealed to him the leprous spot where the jewel had been. Knowing of his leprous condition, he had devised this means of hiding it from the public and covering it up.
Many people around us are 'dead in transgressions and sins.' What should catch our attention most is their need, not their offenses. They don't need a citation; they need a Saviour." To show them the saviour, bring them back from their estrangement is the role of every Christian today.
Secondly, sin separates us from our brothers. In the year 1602 there appeared in Europe at Leyden a pamphlet telling of a Jew who had taunted and struck Jesus as he passed on his way to the cross, shouting at him, "Go quicker!" Jesus paused and answered "I go. But thou shalt wait till I return."
This story of the eternal, or the wandering Jew, met quick and popular acceptance everywhere, and in scores of works of fiction and poetry, and in paintings, the story has been told of the Jew who struck Jesus and was condemned to wander homeless, a fugitive on the face of the earth, until Christ shall come again.
This legend, which took so powerful a hold upon the thought and fancy of mankind, sets forth the solemn truth of the loneliness of sin. We read that when Cain slew his brother Abel, he "went on from the presence of the Lord" (Gen. 4:16). Sin always drives a man out......out from his friends.
(Joke) "Now," said the clergyman to the Sunday-school class, "can any of you tell me what are sins of omission?"
"Yes, sir," said the small boy. "They are the sins we ought to have done and haven't."
We should not let go any opportunity which will help to patch the strained relations with our brothers. It may demand humility from our part, just like the leper who declared, "If you want to you can cure me"; it may be a blow for our ego; it may be shedding the false accolades that we have been claiming.
Thirdly sin estranges us from ourselves.
'He that covereth his sin shall not prosper.' (Ps. 32:1; Prov. 28:13)
The particular lesson that we should not miss from today's Gospel is that sin brings loneliness to man, and with loneliness, utter misery.
We need to tear down the walls that separate us from others and build bridges of loving relationship. Jesus calls every one of us to demolish the walls that separate us from each other and to welcome the outcasts and the untouchables of society, so that we will be welcomed by God into his presence.