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Sixth Sunday of the Year: The Messiah has begun!

In Jesus’ time curing a leper was equivalent to raising the dead. The priests could only “declare pure” a leper, not “make him pure.” They are not able to cure him because the healing of leprosy was reserved to God (2 Kings 5:7). 
The healing of a leper was therefore, the proof that the Messiah has arrived in the world.
The leper, approaches Jesus and begs him on his knees to be “purified.” He is not asking for healing, but to be purified, that is to be put in a condition to go back into the community. More than the disease itself, what troubled him was the fact of being excluded from civil and religious society. 
The leper was considered a dead man. Leprosy was “the eldest daughter of the dead” (Job 18:13). In the Old Testament, only two great prophets had managed to cure it: Moses had cured his sister Miriam (Numbers 12) and Elisha cured the General of Syria, Naaman (2 Kings 5). 
To avoid misunderstandings, Jesus does not want the news being spread among the people, but wants the religious leaders and priests to know that a great prophet has arisen in Israel, that God has visited his people and that the kingdom of God has begun. The healed leper must testify to them that the liberation has begun. 
Jesus’ prohibition to speak about, what Jesus has done for him has a meaning. Mark writes this story after the death and resurrection of Jesus and the veil on the identity of the “Messiah of God” has already fallen. 
Now it is time to proclaim to everyone that Jesus is the Messiah. Who is entrusted with this task? 
Those who have experienced the encounter with Jesus. In Mark’s Gospel, only two people undertake this mission: the leper we are talking about and the man possessed by “demons” (Mark 5:19-20).
The message is now clear: only those who have tasted the joy of a new life, only those who were marginalised and had the experience of liberation are able to explain to others the wonders that the word of Christ can work.
Jesus can no longer openly enter any town, but stays in the rural areas, in desert places, and people come to him from everywhere.  
The evangelist highlights an exchange of residence: first, it is the leper who lives far away and cannot enter the villages, now it is Jesus who has chosen to live in the condition of the lepers. He has thus shown his desire to share the fate of all those suffering people.
The passage concludes with the observation: all drew near to him with confidence, because he had chosen the lepers, the last, those who were rejected. 
These are the people who, even today, instinctively should approach the Christian community, sure to be welcomed with gentleness and love.
● Father Fernando Armellini SCJ
Claretian Publications 
Translated by Father John Ladesma SDB
Abridged by Father Kandamkulathy Jijo CMF