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The healing of the leper

Some of our Secular meetings devote time to one or other version of lectio divina, a traditional method of meditation on Scripture passages. In our Coventry group on Saturday we looked at the gospel for Sunday, a passage from Mark 1: 40-45 telling the story of how Jesus healed a leprosy sufferer. It happened that on Sunday I was in St Joseph's Church in Highgate, North London, where I had never been before, and the sermon was on the gospel passage in question. The preacher made a point that we had not thought of in our discussion in the Coventry group; it was a point that had never occurred to me. We had discussed the fact that the leper was an outcast in the society of the day, an unclean and untouchable person, so just in touching him Jesus was performing a socially dangerous action, not to mention the question that he might risk contracting the disease himself through touch. But the preacher went on to point out that as a result of the healing, the former leprosy sufferer was now free to enter the towns and cities, no longer outcast: whereas because he trumpeted the news of his healing far and wide, Jesus himself could no longer go into the towns and cities. So as a result of the healing the roles were reversed: Jesus was now the outcast. Remembering that leprosy in Scripture is sometimes symbolic of sin, I think that this is an immensely potent interpretation.

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