A Reconciling Touch
(Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Leviticus 13:1-2 and 44-46; 1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1; Mark 1:40-45)
St. Paul may appear to be vain when he writes, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” But he was, in fact, a good model of discipleship, and all of us are called, likewise, to be imitators of Christ, doing everything for the glory of God.
Very recently I met a woman who had a wooden sculpture, a gift from a missionary Sister. It was carved by a leper, who gave it to the Sister to acknowledge his special gratitude, because she was the only person who had ever touched him. She was an imitator of Christ as we see him in today’s Gospel.
His touch produced more than the physical healing. It was surely unexpected, perhaps even shocking, and, therefore, a very powerful sign, an example to follow. It was a healing and reconciling touch.
Normally we think of reconciliation as the restoration of a relationship between persons separated by some deep offense. It is, as you know, a key word in the vocabulary of La Salette Missionaries, Sisters, and Laity, who desire all to be reconciled to God and fully incorporated into the Mystical Body of Christ.
How does this apply to leprosy? Apart from two clear examples (Miriam in Numbers 12, and Gehazi in 2 Kings 5), there was no offense associated with the disease.
The fact remains that, by law, as we read in Leviticus, lepers lived in a state of alienation. Unclean, they could have no association with others, and anyone who had contact with them became unclean as well, though only for a short time. That situation was here reversed. By a touch the leper was restored to health and to a normal life. He could once again enter the temple. His alienation was over. This was an act of reconciliation.
In the 1960’s the Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette founded a leprosarium in Burma. Fr. William Doherty wrote: “We established a leprosarium for the many people afflicted by this dread disease—people until that time unwanted and uncared for.” This was perfectly in keeping with our mission of reconciliation. These persons, unfortunately, could not be restored to their families. But their total alienation was ended.
Not only sin committed or offense given, but any form of alienation, calls for a reconciling touch.