by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Jesus was very sensitive to the suffering of those He met along His way, marginalized by society, despised by the faith, or rejected by the sectors that thought themselves morally or religiously superior.
It's something that comes from within Him. He knows that God doesn't discriminate against anyone. He doesn't reject or excommunicate. He isn't just the God of the good. He welcomes and blesses everyone. Jesus was accustomed to getting up at dawn to pray. On one occasion, He reveals how He views the sunrise: "God makes the sun to rise on the good and the wicked." That's how He is.
Therefore, sometimes He forcefully calls for all condemnation to end: "Judge not and you shall not be judged." Other times, He tells little parables to ask that nobody dedicate themselves to "separating the wheat from the chaff" as if they were the supreme judge of everybody.
But His way of acting is what's most admirable. Jesus' most original and provocative trait was His habit of eating with sinners, prostitutes, and undesirable people. It was an unusual occurence. Nobody in Israel with the reputation of being a "man of God" had ever been seen eating and drinking animatedly with sinners.
The more respectable religious leaders couldn't stand it. Their reaction was aggressive. "Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of sinners." Jesus doesn't defend Himself. It was true. In His innermost being, He felt great respect and a moving friendship towards those who had been rejected by society or the faith.
Mark includes the healing of the leper in his narrative to highlight Jesus' predilection for the excluded. Jesus is crossing a deserted region. Suddenly a leper approaches Him. He isn't accompanied by anyone. He lives in solitude. He carries the mark of his exclusion on his skin. The law condemns him to live apart from others. He is impure.
Kneeling, the leper makes a humble plea to Jesus. He feels dirty. He doesn't talk to Him about illness. He just wants to be cleansed of all stigma. "If you wish, you can make me clean." Jesus is moved at seeing at His feet that human being disfigured by illness and abandoned by all. That man represented the loneliness and desperation of so many stigmatized people. Jesus "stretches out His hand" seeking contact with his skin, "touches him", and says, "I do will it. Be made clean."
Whenever we discriminate from our supposed moral superiority against different human groups (vagabonds, prostitutes, drug addicts, people with AIDS, immigrants, homosexuals...) or we exclude them from living with us, denying them our acceptance, we are seriously distancing ourselves from Jesus.