I wonder if anyone has ever written about the anonymous priest we hear about in today’s gospel. Saint Luke gives the impression that miraculous healings were part and parcel of everyday life. But miracles were rare and the priest would have been surprised to see this man standing before him cured of an incurable disease like leprosy. The Jewish law concerning skin diseases meant that people suffering from them were considered ritually unclean and were physically separated from the community. If you had leprosy, the only way to rejoin your family and friends was to be declared clean by a priest. But for that to happen, you had to be healed first, and that was unlikely.
So you can imagine the priest’s surprise. He must have been even more surprised when he learned who it was who healed this man. Clearly Jesus was no ordinary rabbi to heal a man of an incurable disease. God was working through him in a new and powerful way, both to forgive sins and to bring back into the community those who were excluded because of sin or disease. Did the priest wonder if Jesus could possibly be the Messiah?
Numerous Fathers of the Church have likened sin to a leprosy that separates us from God and from each other. And that makes sense. We all know how a guilty conscience can leave us feeling isolated from the people with whom we share our lives. We know how sin can hurt, and even break, relationships. And so it’s comforting to know that by his passion and Cross, Jesus has restored us, both to God and to each other. We don’t have to remain isolated.
And that’s not all; God doesn’t just want to free us from isolation. He wants to make us into agents of healing and unity. Simply by the witness of our lives, we can demonstrate to other people God’s ability to bring life, health, and wholeness. We may not be fearless evangelists converting thousands of people; but a joyful spirit and a servant’s heart can be just as convincing as impassioned words. Like the anonymous man who was healed in the gospel today we too can make a difference.