In the religious culture of Jesus’ day, it was strictly forbidden for a healthy person to touch a leper. Not only did it expose a healthy person to contagion—and by extension, expose his or her community—it also rendered him or her ritually unclean. The healthy person was ostracized by the frightened community until he or she submitted to extensive purification rites.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus did not have to touch the leper in order to cure him, but he did anyway. That simple act expressed his love for the man far more profoundly than a miraculous healing by itself ever could. In effect, Jesus was saying, “We’re in this together. And we’re going to get out of it together.”

Little things make all the difference.

—Fr. Barton Geger, SJ, is a research scholar at the Institute for Advanced Jesuit Studies and Assistant Professor of the Practice at the School of Theology and Ministry at Boston College.




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