Whether it's because it was happening to us personally, we were the perpetrator, or we were the bystander watching it happen, we have all experienced someone being ostracized for any number of reasons. Whether it's simply because they were different in looks, personality or interests; or because they had some unappealing and blemished features; or because there is something in their past that they did or were affiliated with. They are mocked and humiliated, then abandoned. Not only have they been judged, they were condemned by the people around them to a life of misery and loneliness, but for what? How many people actually get to know them and see them for who they are despite their imperfections and impurities?
In the first reading, God told Moses, "The one who bears the sore of leprosy shall... declare himself unclean, since he is in fact unclean. He shall dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp." Not only is he to isolate himself from the rest of the community, but he is also made to declare his presence and show that he is "unclean" in the way that he presents himself.
What a stark contrast to Jesus when, in the Gospel of Mark, a leper went to him and begged Jesus to cleanse him. He was moved with pity, stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him "I do will it. Be made clean." Multiple things are happening here.
First of all, the leper himself went to Jesus and asked to be cleansed. We all have our own blemishes in our visage, in our hearts. How willing are we to beg Jesus to cleanse us from these blemishes? It is up to us to seek Jesus.
Secondly, Jesus was moved with pity. We are reminded why He was Incarnated: He loved us. He was the embodiment of the love our Creator has for us. Over and over again, He was not afraid to reach out to the outcasts, those in society who were humiliated, ostracized, and punished for their sins, their illnesses, their imperfections. We saw this when He was anointed by the sinful woman (Luke 7:36-50), when he saved the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11), and when he dined with the tax collectors and sinners (Mark 2:13-17). He went where no one else would go. And just like with the leper, he was moved with pity for us enough to die for us.
But why did He die for us? He reached His hand out to the leper and said "Be made clean". He came because "Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners." (Mark 2:17). He came to heal us, heal us from the pain and blemish of our sin. He made the ultimate sacrifice, the ultimate show of love. Why? Because he let us know that we are all worthy of the love of God. Even as He was dying on the cross, when one of the sinners who recognized who He was, the Son of God, and this condemned man essentially asked Jesus for forgiveness when He said "Remember me when you come into your kingdom,” and Jesus tells this sinner dying next to Him "Amen, I say to you, you will be with me in Paradise."
Every. Single. One. Of. Us. Is. Worthy. Jesus shows us that. It is up to us to be transformed by that love. Not only in the lives we live but in how we treat others. In Paul's letter to the Corinthians, he tells them "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ." Jesus is our example of love, compassion, empathy, sympathy. That is how we must see and treat others. And He was the catalyst for the change of the human heart. He was the embodiment of unconditional love.
Happy Valentine's Day.