A small boy who was afraid of the dark was not consoled by the nightlight his parents had installed in his room, so he kept crying out in the dark. His father came to comfort him, saying “remember, God is always with you.” To which the child replied: “But I want somebody with skin on!”
We cannot bear to be without human companionship. This fact has been scientifically documented. Infants deprived of human touch and companionship soon die, the tiny human spirit starves in the absence of simple companionship. To reach out and touch someone is literally life-giving. We all need someone with skin on. Today’s scripture looks deeper into God’s compassion, which is manifest in Jesus’s healing touch of the leper so that he could be restored to the community to which he belonged.
St. Mark’s Gospel brings us face to face with the fearful uncleanness of leprosy. Medicine can effectively treat leprosy today, but this was not always the case. In Jesus’ time, ignorance of the disease bred fear, hysteria, and a particularly severe treatment. The leper was expelled from human society, causing pain deeper than leprosy’s scars. The leper’s life sentence was to live apart, to be deprived of human companionship, of human touch.
The amazing grace of Jesus turned the leper’s situation around. He enters into His grief and pain. By reaching out and healing the leper, Jesus broke the ancient rules of associating with the unclean, and He knew he broke them. He couldn’t resist this man’s desperate courage and great faith.
The leper was made clean by Jesus. He was a leper no more. He could go home and join the circle of his family, but first he had to show his gratitude by making an offering to the community or the Church.
Jesus asked the man to keep his cure a secret. That was asking too much, of course. The man announced the good news of his cure far and wide because he was delirious with joy.
In today’s scripture Jesus teaches us that God’s compassion deals in particulars. We must never ignore any individual in need. We are also asked to come to our senses – to speak, to touch, and to listen, compassionately, for this is how love is spread all over the place. Our God is a God of compassion.
Make a special effort today to reach out and touch someone, the neighbor next door, a friend in hospital, an elderly person, someone having a bad day, the poor amongst you, the weak, the vulnerable members of you family or household, your co-workers. Leave nobody out if you can.
Remember, a little compassion goes a long way.
Fr. Hugh Duffy