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Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Book of Leviticus, in its present form, was probably completed in about the sixth century BC. It reflects the view that God wanted to live among his people and that they were to be set apart, free from sin and impurity. Spiritual holiness was symbolized by physical perfection; therefore many bodily functions and ailments were considered impure. Leprosy was regarded as unclean and this was the main concern, rather than the disease itself. A leper was isolated from the community and forced to wear torn clothing. From a health perspective it was sensible, since leprosy is spread by close contact; however, the complete rejection and demeaning of the person was cruel.

Jesus’ love was, and is, inclusive: in fact, he reached out especially to the poor, the weak and the marginalised. Touching a leper was forbidden, and by doing so Jesus might have been considered unclean himself. Instead he purified the leper. He not only made him fit to rejoin society but gave him back his sense of self-worth.

Jesus saw that beneath the elaborate cleansing rituals, there was often hypocrisy. People manipulated the Law, in order to avoid obligations to parents for example. Jesus taught that it was sin that contaminates, rather tham disease, disability or disfigurement. Even so he delighted in sitting with sinners, giving them the opportunity to change. He was always able to see the goodness in a person and encouraged it to flourish.