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Only the Lowly

Feeling sorry for him, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched Him
Leviticus 13:1-2,44-46; Psalm 32:1-2,5,11; I Corinthians 10:31-11:1; Mark 1:40-45

Sermon Week Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle B

Scripture Summary Mark 1:41

In Biblical times, the word "leprosy" designated several kinds of mangy, scaly skin diseases, not the condition of leprosy we know today as "Hansen's Disease." It is extremely doubtful that today's leprosy ever occurred in Palestine in Biblical times. Therefore, the man whom Jesus confronts was not afflicted with the kind of leprosy that degenerates nerves, causes loss of sensation, loss of muscular movement, and, finally, loss of extremities such as fingers, toes, and nose. Nevertheless, the man was rightly troubled because he was afflicted with a skin disease that caused him to be ostracized from his people. Under Jewish Law, severe measures were taken to prevent the spread of skin diseases. The afflicted person was isolated from the community, was not allowed to enter settled areas. He was required to give a clear warning to other people of his condition so that they might avoid getting close to him. However, the disease was curable, but the leper was able to resume his life in the community only after a priest had verified his cure and performed the purification rite required by Law.

In the stories of his life, 13th Century Francis of Assisi is depicted as a man for others -- a man who loved others -- a man who was always there to "give a cup of cold water" to Jesus' "lowly ones." But there were many lepers around in his time, and St. Francis had a terrible fear of them. Yet he knew, somewhere deep inside, that someday he was going to have to break through that barrier of fear to move deeper into his life with God. It happened one day when he went out for a walk with Brother Leo. They heard the bells. In Francis' time, lepers were forced to carry little bells and ring them to warn passersby. And as they listened to the distinct sound of those bells, a leper emerged from a clump of trees. Brother Leo was horrified as he looked at this sick man, disfigured by the disease. Leo turned, but Francis ran forward and embraced the leper [...]

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