A Leper’s Prayer

Isolation and Desolation

We are probably coming out of the recent Covid pandemic. For two years we experienced uncertainty at the hands of the virus. We spoke of it as if it was a living organism that we could kill. Viruses are not living agents – yet they can kill living beings.

A person infected with this virus was required to separate from the community, initially for 14 days, then it was reduced to 10 and finally 5-7 days. A Quarantine was required to protect others and minimize the spread of the virus. Healthy people were required to maintain a social distance of at least 6 feet (2 meters) to make sure they did not contribute to the spread of the virus or become its victim. Hugs were a thing of the past, and fist bumps became the greeting mark of the courageous. Lockdowns followed because fear dominated all thinking.

The visible mark of the pandemic was a mask, worn to cover the nose and mouth, such that only a person’s eyes were visible. Whether masks worked or not, I leave it to others though I have an opinion. No one, however, denies that it became the visible sign of an invisible reality. Like a sacrament of sorts, it was presumed to affect what it signified.

Now that the pandemic has faded, people are compensating by traveling more and doing more than before. The joy of being together with family and friends, of going to work and returning to church and celebrating life – is replacing the depression of the previous isolation.

The Man Who Was a Leper

Imagine a leper. He has a disease that has no cure, no vaccine potential for healing or prevention, and his body decays before his eyes steadily marching towards death. With corpse for a body, the leper dies before his last breath.

He was required to shout “Leper, leper” as he came by, so others could ‘social distance’ from him – not by 6 feet but much more. No ability to see family or friends, except as those might risk their own lives to get a glimpse of the leper friend or leave him some food.

Perpetual lockdown for a leper meant he could not enter the city, community, or camp. He had to remain outside the city walls.

So, today we read about such a leper, one who approaches the Jesus who will also have to one day die outside the city walls. The leper kneels and begs with words that confirm his faith. “If you wish …” yet in his heart he is prepared to be devastated. “I do will it. Be made clean.” I cannot imagine the at once relief coupled with joy.

Don’t tell anyone, just show yourself to the priest. If the good shepherd would rejoice in finding one sheep after leaving the 99, how could that shepherd silence the joy of the sheep at being found. He could not and He did not. Like the good shepherd the healed leper had to tell everyone. His healing could not be complete without witnessing to others about the healer.

Likewise for Us

And so it is, when we ask to be healed of an ailment by prayer. Like the leper we beg for a cure. “If you wish Lord ….” Then we wait with hope -as our prayer expresses both our preference and our acceptance that Jesus ultimately has a plan for us. We want to be cured and share about the healer, yet we acknowledge His wisdom, and therefore necessarily add, “but, Your will be done.” Amen.

[Readings: Heb 3:7-14; Mk 1:40-45]

Jerry DeMelo Jr.

Mr Jerry DeMelo, Jr OP is a life-long Catholic and life professed Lay Dominican. A graduate of the Naval Academy, he served in the US Submarine Service. He is presently a Judicial Officer in California. Jerry enjoys Catholic Pilgrimages, teaches a weekly Bible study as well as the Diaconate formation program for the Diocese of Fresno. Mr DeMelo is on the Board of Directors of Gratia Vobis Ministries.

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