First reading: Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46.
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 31(32):1-2, 5, 11.
Second reading: 1 Corinthians 10:31 – 11:1.
Gospel: Mark 1:40-45.
Link to readings.
In the Roman Catholic Church, 11 February is the 26th World Day of Prayer for the Sick. Pope Francis invites us to pray for all who are isolated and marginalised by ill health (message for this day, issued November 2017):
The image of the Church as a ‘field hospital’ that welcomes all those wounded by life is a very concrete reality ... The Church’s mission is a response to Jesus’s gift, for she knows that she must bring to the sick the Lord’s own gaze, full of tenderness and compassion.
It is this same compassion that the Lord shows towards the leper in today’s Gospel, by breaking down all the social and cultural barriers of his time.
As the Jews around Jesus were observing the same guidelines for self-preservation concerning lepers prescribed in the Old Testament (First Reading), lepers could not have been among the sick brought to Jesus in last week’s Gospel (Mark 1: 29–39). So in this case, the unfortunate man has to come himself and beg Jesus for a cure. Once healed, however, the leper cannot stop himself sharing his news with others – and in this way, Jesus himself is now considered ‘unclean’, and also becomes isolated.
We too, in praying the Psalm, can ask the Lord to cure us from all that separates us from others, by acknowledging our failings.
In the Second Reading, Paul similarly encourages us not to separate ourselves from those who do not know Christ. We should avoid behaving in a way that might shock them, and instead model ourselves on the Lord.
This week, then, I may want to pray especially for all those around me who are suffering and feel isolated, asking the Lord to cure them in body and mind.
1 Corinthians 10:31 – 11:1.
I come to my time of prayer, perhaps with my mind full of the events of the day... the joys, the problems, the comforts, the anxieties.
I take time to leave these aside for a while, to spend ‘quality time’ with the Lord.
Perhaps I take a deep breath and then breathe normally, or I slowly repeat a favourite line of Scripture ... whatever works best for me.
I slowly read the text. There may be a phrase which strikes me straight away, or I may need to read it
several times, letting Paul’s words touch my heart.
I may become aware of the way Paul uses clear commands: ‘Do it ...’; ‘Never do anything…’; ‘Take me…’
Do I find comfort in this clear guidance, or do I resent being told what to do?
Maybe I am drawn to reflect on why I lead my life as I do: is it for the glory of God, or do I have other motives?
How do I feel around people who perhaps do not share my values? How important is it for me that they should know me as a follower of Christ?
Perhaps I consider how I could make others appreciate what I find attractive in the person of Christ.
I turn to the Lord and tell him what is in my heart, whether it be my love for him, or my uncertainties.
I ask for his help to model my behaviour on his.
I listen to him.
When the time comes, I take my leave with my own words of thanks.
I take time to come to a stillness and become aware of the silence within me. I allow myself to become receptive to God’s presence and loving gaze.
When I am ready, I slowly read the Gospel several times with an open mind and heart. I notice what words and images touch and move me.
I may like to enter the scene and use my imagination to encounter the Lord. As I visualise the scene, maybe I find myself being the leper: fearful, isolated from my community and desolate, pleading to the Lord for healing.
Or maybe I am Jesus, full of pity and compassion for the outcast ... or possibly a bystander, watching the scene unfold.
After sitting with the text a while, or allowing my imagination to wander freely, how do I feel now? Do I relate to the sense of being an outsider, of being rejected?
I share with the Lord.
Can I allow Jesus to reach out and touch me, heal me?
I consider how Jesus was someone who lived on the margins of his society, who can really understand what it feels like to be rejected. In trust, I pray and ‘plead for’ the outcast and marginalised in my life, in my community, in our world.
I ponder how I might reach out to my suffering sisters and brothers, to share with them God’s compassion, love and blessings in their trials.
When I am ready, I bring my prayer time to an end slowly.
Prepared by St Beuno’s Outreach in the Diocese of Wrexham