I remember helping in RCIA at my parish in Los Angeles, and we had broken out into small groups. In my small group, one of the candidates was reflecting on the Scripture readings for the week and said how she’d heard that the New Testament was essentially God's apology for the Old Testament. I wasn't leading the small group, nor did I ever say much in these small groups, but the distracted leader didn't hear her. I sat there with my eyes wide as the other people in the group began nodding in agreement with this woman. I cleared my throat loudly (stupid, nonconfrontational tendencies) and waited for the leader to clue in. And he did. Eventually.
It was the first time I'd ever encountered this pretty pervasive (and WRONG!) idea that God thought He was too harsh in the Old Testament and so in the New Testament He plays his nice card and sends Jesus.
Admittedly, today’s Old Testament reading sounds pretty harsh: "The leper who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry, `Unclean, unclean.'"
It was a kind of quarantine, and as such was necessary, but in our present culture this kind of marginalization is despicable. We live in a culture dominated by "bleeding heart" liberal ideology that wants a watery gospel where Jesus was this super nice guy and sin doesn’t exist.
But Jesus doesn’t contradict the Mosaic Law. He says in the Sermon on the mount: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.” (Math. 5:17)
And in today’s Gospel we have a beautiful example of that profession. Jesus doesn't hug the leper, and say: "Moses was just so mean. I love you just the way you are." No. He actually, literally makes him clean.
Jesus doesn’t overlook or ignore our flaws, he bears them for us. Just as the leper was cast out, sin casts us out. Sin isolates us. It divides us not only from God but from our family, our friends, and our communities.
I know this message is pretty Lenten and you should still be partying, but as you prepare to approach the desert, know that Jesus wants to transform you the way that he transformed the leper. He wants to bring you out of isolation and into communion.
Be bold today to approach Christ as the leper approached Him—in full awareness of your brokenness—and ask him for healing.
Kate Rhodes is the wife of a lanky carpenter and mother to two littles. She used to teach English, but then she joined the ranks of SAHMs. You can find out more about her here.