Today in the Gospel, Jesus was approached by a leper who firmly believed that Jesus would heal him. The leper had been isolated andrejected and despised by society.

He had been declared “unclean” by a priest. He was forced to live apart from the rest of the community in horrible living conditions that were cruel, poverty-ridden, and lacking in basic necessities. He was a social outcast – a reject.

By law, he had to wear tattered clothes and let his hair go uncut and uncombed. When he met anyone, he had to cover his mouth with his hand and shout out a warning “unclean, unclean”.

The leper in today’s Gospel heard that many sick people had been cured by Jesus, so he set out to find the Lord and beg for healing. When Jesus saw the leper and knew of his deep faith, He told the apostles to let the man approach. Moved with pity, Jesus did the unthinkable – He stretched out His hand and touched the man. “and immediately, the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.”

Jesus came to this world to proclaim the Good News that the Kingdom of God had come. His primary goal was preaching – not miracles. This cure of the leper was a sign that the Kingdom of God had come – God was now present with us: the unclean were made clean; sinners were forgiven; and the sick were made whole.

The message of the Gospel today tells us that Jesus stretches out His hand to touch us too, because all of us – in various ways experience the infection and isolation which the leper in today’s gospel experienced. Our affliction is not leprosy, it is sin, isolation, and abandonment!

The leprosy in today’s Gospel is symbolic of the leprosy of sin which corrupts and eats away at our souls. Like the leper in the Gospel today, once

infected by it, sin makes us live as outcasts from God’s grace and from the community of the church.

Obviously, we don’t literally proclaim ourselves as “unclean” to those we meet, we are cursed with the knowledge that in our sin, we have – in fact – become, “unclean”.

The good news of the Gospel today assures us that the same Jesus who stretched out His hand to the unclean leper, stretches out His hand to us as individuals and as a society. He offers to bring us back from the isolation that our sin has caused, and He offers us His healing and forgiveness. The same Jesus who took pity on the leper in the Gospel, takes pity on us because He is moved by our misery and does not want to see us in the isolation of our sins – standing alone. He says to us what He said to the leper, “Go show yourself to the priest”.

Lent begins this week. Lent is the time for each of us to deal with the leprosy of sin and bad attitudes in our lives. We must examine our conscience and ask ourselves: What is the problem we are afraid to face? What is the part of our life that is out-of-order? What lurks in the unclean corners of our hearts?

In the Holy season of lent, Jesus asks us to acknowledge our sin, and approach Him as boldly as the leper did in the Gospel today. Jesus wants to reach out and touch us as He touched and healed the leper so that we too can be healed and forgiven – and begin to live a new life again.

Today, the Lord is inviting us to look at the health of our souls. What kinds of infections are there? How close are we to falling into complete isolation from the Lord? How long has it been since our last confession?

Lent presents the opportunity for all of us lepers to present ourselves to the lord and say: “Lord, if you will do so, you can cure me”.