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Pastoral Visit to Imaichi and Nikko Catholic Church



February 15, 2015 ; 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B


FIRST READING : Genesis 3:16-19
SECOND READING : 1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1
GOSPEL : Mark 1:40-45

Today’s Gospel according to Mark says: “A man with a serious skin disease came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, ‘If you choose, you can make me clean.’” (Mark 1:40)
“A serious skin disease meant the sickness called “Leprosy” or “Hansen’s disease” before. The word used in the original text of the Old Testament is “Tzuaraath”. But it was pointed out that such an expression might include a meaning of discrimination. And the word “Tzuaraath” in the original text might not be the same sickness as that which we call leprosy today, and hence it is translated as “a serious skin disease” in New Interconfessional Translation of the Bible. A person with “a serious skin disease” was isolated from society as “an unclean person”. And they were considered as the most hated existence.

Leviticus tells: “The person who has a serious skin disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head be disheveled; and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean.’ He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease; he is unclean. He shall live alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.” (Lev.13:45-46) *

A human being can exist depending on the relationship with others. How big might be the suffering when a person is shut out from any kind of relationship with others, excluded and hated. A person with a serious skin disease with such a heart came close to Jesus. I think it was an act with great courage and trust.
“Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, ‘I do choose. Be made clean!’ And immediately the disease left him, and he was made clean.”(Mark 1:41-42)
“Moved with pity” is the word (splangnizomai in Greek) to express deep sympathy, which are found also in other passages of Gospels. The deep pity of Jesus expresses just the deep pity of God, the Father. God is compassionate. This deed of Jesus expresses the manifestation of God’s love sympathizing with the suffering of human being, without looking back on himself.

In the second reading today, Paul says: “whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.”
What is the glory of God? I think it is to let God’s mercy to be revealed and transmitted. The person who had a serious skin disease, was trampled on his human dignity, denied to be treated as a member of the community, and was isolated from the society. This person approached to Jesus with courage and deep trust, and asked for the blessing of healing to be cleaned. Then Jesus immediately touched this unclean person and cured him.

Our human nature defiled by the original sin asks for glory not of God but of our own. In fact we are looking for our own glory in mind.
Why was the serious suffering of this person with a serious skin disease caused? Why was this chasm between human beings caused? Chapter 3 of Genesis tells us the consequence of the sin of Adam and Eve. Genesis seems to tell us that serious problems of humanity like sickness and discrimination were caused by disorder of our relationship with God.

Jesus Christ came to make this world filled and covered with sin and evil to be renewed. Jesus leaves everything he has, and stays beside the people who suffer and struggle with deep compassion. I strongly feel that we should share the joy of this person with a serious skin disease, who was told “be clean.” and got clean, and then convey this joy to many people.

*The related passages in Leviticus as follows : Leviticus 13:1-2,44-46
13:1 The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying
13:2 When a person has on the skin of his body a swelling or an eruption or a spot, it turns into a serious skin disease on the skin of his body, he shall be brought to Aaron the priest or to one of his sons the priests,
13:44 he is a man of a serious skin disease, he is unclean. The priest shall pronounce him unclean; his disease is on his head.
13:45 The person who has the serious skin disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head be disheveled; and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean.’
13:46 He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease; he is unclean. He shall live alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.

[All the Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition (NRSVCE), copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]



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