I AM THE DISOBEDIENT LEPER (Mk.1: 40-43; Mt.8:1-4; Lk.5:12-16)
Yes, I am that disobedient leper. There is nothing that I can say that will ever justify what I did. I was carried away by my emotions. I was so overwhelmingly appreciative and grateful for having been healed, that I lost my head. I wanted all the credit go to Jesus, regardless as to who got hurt. I wanted the world to know who the Man was that had been so good to me. Jesus did not want me to do that because He knew what I did not know. The world was not ready for Him and I drove Him away from the world. My blubbering tongue drove my Lord into the desert. Because of me, He could no longer live in towns or pray in our synagogues. He had to hide in lonely places and pray in seclusion. I robbed many people of His services. My problem was that I could not hold my loose tongue, when I was ordered to do so.
Again, I am saying what I should say at the end. I sought Jesus out for a reason. Here, too, I was disobedient but for my benefit. I came to town when I was not permitted to do so. I belonged to those misfortunate people who contracted leprosy and we were ordered to stay away from inhabited place. A priest looked at my reddish and white spots and declared me unclean. I had to carry a bell like an animal and shout, “unclean” whenever another human being approached. On this day, I stole into town quietly and before any one was aware of my presence, I was on my knees facing the ground, begging and saying, “If you want to, you can cleanse me!” Without any hesitation, Jesus felt for me. He, too, must have thought with His heart rather than with His head. He, too, was disobedient to our laws. No one was allowed to touch a leper. But this was one time when I hoped He would break that law. Before I became a leper, I too upheld that law; but when it concerned me, I wanted Him to break it for me. And Jesus did. He reached down and touched me and replied, “I will, be clean!” At once, before the marveling and dumbfounded eyes, I was being cleansed. My reddish and white spots were vanishing.
Leprosy was a frightening disease. The fear of what it did was greater than the disease itself. It began with spots and ended with limbs. Literally, it ate up face, fingers and toes. It was a flesh-eating monster. It devoured the outside of the body and then the inside. It left horrible looking scars. No one knew how to cure it. Everyone believed that it was contagious. That is why we were driven from our homes and towns and ordered to stay in deserted places. The irony of my story is that, that I drove Jesus into deserted places while I took over the town. I preached where He should have healed and taught the people. My thoughtlessness deprived so many of the real presence of Jesus. While I was tooting my horn, I was drowning out the ministry of Jesus. My experience had become so enormous to me, that I hindered others from having their own encounter with Jesus. I wanted everybody to know what had happened to me. I did not give my fellow men a chance to find out for themselves what it meant to meet Jesus. Please, be more considerate than I was.
What did Jesus actually wanted me to do that I disregarded? First, He wanted me to keep my big mouth shut. He warned me to tell no one. He meant absolutely no one. It was not my job to preach. He knew that I would turn the people away from Him. But my heart plugged my ears and I heard nothing. The humming that I heard was my own voice and it did more harm than good. Second, I was to abide by the law. Jesus instructed me to go to the priest and offer up a cleansing sacrifice that was ordered by Moses himself. It was my duty to follow procedures and obey rules and regulations. That too had escaped my ears. I was so wrapped up in my new wellbeing, that I made Jesus look like a lawbreaker. What I was doing on my own, our leaders assumed that I was complying with the wishes of Jesus. Jesus had nothing to do with the liberties I took. He had not come to abandon the law but to keep it. I broke it and I thought of myself as being a follower Jesus. How wrong could I have been? He had instructed me to make peace with the priest and my people through the Law of Moses and I ignorantly chose to live my own life. Only, I lived it at the expense of the One that healed me and deprived others of His touch.
What did my disobedience accomplish? I am too embarrassed to tell you. Not only did I drive Jesus away from the cities and towns, but also from a warm room and a bed. Because of people like me, He had nowhere to lay His head or call a place His home. He had no longer a place to pray. He had to stay outdoors and talk with God, the Father. For us, the pagans did the praying outside. We believed our God was within our homes, synagogues and Temple. Jesus used to come to our cities and towns to meet the people and even worship with them. Some even had Him participate in their services. I changed all that. Now, the people had to go and hunt for Him in deserted places. Only small groups found Him. Before that, large crowds followed Jesus. But what was more damaging was that most people did not believe me that I was cured from leprosy. They did not know me and had no reason to believe my story. What I had overlooked was to be a witness to my own people; namely my family, my friends and my acquaintances, I had to learn to obey the law. Instead, I tried to be an evangelist at large with no backing from home. My own family probably did not know that Jesus had cured me. They were most likely still leaving food for me where I would collect it secretly. It was all because I had a loose tongue.