Year B: 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time
First Reading: Leviticus 13: 1-2,44-46
The First Reading today contains part of the passage to which Jesus refers in the Gospel.
Leviticus is a Book of the Law which lays down the rules by which God’s people are to live. Some of them seem strange to our eyes - some seem overly cautious - some seem positively repressive.
Most, however, have their roots in common sense and basic laws governing hygiene and the prevention of the spread of disease. Where a community lived in close proximity one to another - with no access to running water - it was all too easy for an illness to take hold. With no access to antibiotics and powerful medicines and surgery, diseases were to be avoided at all costs.
Add to this the fact that diseases - and especially leprosy - were seen as the result of sin - then those afflicted were seen almost to have brought it upon themselves. For example, after expressing doubts about Moses’ leadership, his sister Miriam is struck down with leprosy and is only cured through Moses’ begging God to heal her. (see Numbers 12).
The prescribed solution to the problem of dealing with people with leprosy then is to exclude them from the community. They had to live separately and ensure that no-one could come upon them even accidentally. They were, in effect, to make themselves as physically unattractive as possible so that everyone would know that they were unclean.
The diagnosis was not always accurate - many other skin diseases were included in the name “leprosy”. It was, however, an attempt to ensure the health of the wider community - though its effect on the individuals concerned was often devastating.
What does it mean for me?
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