Leprosy was so contagious that victims had to be isolated from the rest of humanity. This caused victims to suffer from psychological illnesses associated with isolation and extreme loneliness.
Various scientific and psychiatric studies show that babies who don’t receive sufficient human contact are more likely to suffer developmental delays — either physical or emotional.
There is a very simple explanation for this. The Community from which all communities receive their origin is the Most Holy Trinity. They are the source of all goodness and love. They share with each other everything they are.
Man was created in the image and likeness of God. Therefore, mankind was created to receive and give love. Man first receives love from God and then begins to share it with others, freely giving and receiving what he has received from the very beginning. Such a person who receives generously from God and generously shares that love with God and with others is very alive and filled with emotional and spiritual energy. This energy builds community.
Since lepers were isolated from the community, they suffered from extreme loneliness. Their most grievous suffering was not the physical suffering of the disease but the psychological terror that came from utter isolation. Being cut off from human affection gradually deteriorated their sense of being human and belonging to the human race.
For example, the leper in the Gospel for the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time suffered even more from human isolation than from the illness of the human body. He knew that society had labeled him ritually unclean. There is nothing he wanted more than to participate in human companionship.
You can imagine what happened when the anguishing cry of human loneliness met Godly compassion in Jesus. The leper’s search for meaning was suddenly fulfilled. His desperate cries for human affection were realized. Suddenly, life made sense. The leper suddenly realized what his soul was searching for — human compassion and love.
We may have conquered the physical disease of leprosy, but profound loneliness is rampant in our society. It drives some to become mass murderers; others it drives to suicide. Still others it drives to express their unhappiness through the use of drugs, alcohol, extramarital sex or other disruptive behaviors.
The problem today isn’t that Jesus is unavailable to help them, but that people don’t know Jesus and that He is available. There is no problem of desperate loneliness that Jesus is unable or unwilling to heal.
The underlying problem of loneliness is sin, our own sin and that of others. Every sin we commit diminishes our relationship with God, with self and with others. Every time we leave the confessional after genuine repentance and absolution, Jesus heals us of our spiritual leprosy.
The absolution from God in the confessional is a far greater gift than the physical healing of leprosy. Sin separates us from each other, and God’s mercy re-socializes us with each other and with our God.
Don’t go out and preach to others to get back to confession. Rather, continue the experience of being re-socialized with yourself, your family and friends, so that they can no longer stand what they are missing in their lives. When you become “afflicted” with God’s compassion, you will want to share that “affliction” with others. I have never seen anyone reject genuine compassion that flows from God.
Sharing compassion with others becomes contagious when we have welcomed God’s compassion so deeply into our hearts.
Let us go back to the words of the Gospel. “A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged Him and said, ‘If you wish, you can make me clean.’” He was profoundly discontent with the quality of his life. He humbled himself and begged Jesus to relieve his daily hell of isolation.
What do we want when we come to Jesus? Do we merely want a diminishment of the isolation our sins have caused, or do we want to be cleansed in the very depths of our soul?
If we want what the leper wanted, then we will open our hearts generously to receive the reconciliation that comes to us from Jesus for all of our mistakes and all of our weaknesses. Jesus said, “I do will it. Be made clean.”
When we experience a profound sense of joy that flows from repentance, we need not keep it secret. Our behavior will no longer hasten Christ’s crucifixion, so don’t be afraid to tell others what God in His goodness has done for you.
After Jesus healed the Gerasene demoniac He told him, “Go home to your family and announce to them all that the Lord in His pity has done for you.”
Now we’re getting to the heart of evangelization. It isn’t going out telling others what they need to do to be saved, but going out and sharing with others what Christ in His compassion has done for us. We need to live God’s over-abundant mercy and compassion. Our God must be a God of over-abundant gifts that He waits to bestow upon hungry people. We’re so fortunate to be the recipients of such joyous good news. Don’t keep Christ a secret any longer.