2 Kgs 5:14-17
2 Tm 2:8-13
Watch a video with homily hints
Life was difficult for lepers in the time of Jesus, not simply because of their disease, but because they were ostracized. Leviticus 13:45-46 tells us that lepers were to wear torn clothes, let their hair be disheveled, and live outside the camp. They were to cry "Unclean, unclean!" when a person without leprosy approached them. As outcasts, the lepers had no right to even speak to Jesus. Moreover, in the ancient Mediterranean world, touching a leper was a radical act. By touching a reviled outcast, Jesus defies the predominant culture that allowed these human beings to be ostracized and put on a lower level of dignity.
In Mark 1:40 we read of another encounter of a leper with Jesus. Most English translations of the New Testament say that Jesus was "moved with pity" when he encountered the leper. However, the Revised English Bible says that Jesus was "moved to anger." If Jesus was moved by anger, his anger would not have been at the leper but rather at a system that excluded certain people.
In His ministry, Christ consistently sought out those whom society oppresses and rejects. He broke down the false barriers that people set up among themselves, and instead acknowledged the equal human dignity of every individual, despite what common opinion might say. Hence we see Him reach out to children despite the efforts of the apostles to keep them away (Matthew 19:13-15); to tax collectors and sinners despite the objections of the Scribes (Mark 2:16); to the blind despite the warnings of the crowd (Matthew 20:29-34); to a foreign woman despite the utter surprise of the disciples and of the woman herself (John 4:9, 27); to Gentiles despite the anger of the Jews (Matthew 21:41-46); and, in today’s Gospel, to the lepers, despite their isolation from the rest of society (Luke 17:11-19).
When it comes to human dignity, Christ erases distinctions. St. Paul declares, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave or free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28).
We can likewise say, "There is neither born nor unborn." Using this distinction as a basis for the value of life or the protection one deserves is meaningless and offensive to all that Scripture teaches. The unborn are the segment of our society which is most neglected and discriminated against. Christ Himself surely has a special love for them.