We read in the Gospel today, “It happened that there was a man full of leprosy in one of the towns where Jesus was; and when he saw Jesus, he fell prostrate, pleaded with him, and said, ‘Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.’ Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, ‘I do will it. Be made clean.’ And the leprosy left him immediately.”
Pope Francis writes, “The Church which ‘goes forth’ is a community of missionary disciples who take the first step, who are involved and supportive, who bear fruit and rejoice. An evangelizing community knows that the Lord has taken the initiative; he has loved us first (1Jn 4;19), and therefore we can move forward, bodily take the initiative, go out to others, seek those who have fallen away, stand at the crossroads, and welcome the outcast….Let us try a little harder to take the first step and become involved. Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. The lord gets involved and he involves his own, as he kneels to wash their feet. He tells his disciples: ‘You will be blessed if you do this’ (Jn 13:17) An evangelizing community gets involved by word and deeds in people’s daily lives, it bridges distance, it is willing to abase itself if necessary, and it embraces human life, touching the suffering flesh of Christ in others. Evangelizers thus take on the ‘smell of the sheep.'”
If a Person had leprosy they were an outcast. In the time of St Francis if someone had leprosy they had to ring a bell and say, “Unclean Unclean” if people were walking towards them. St Francis first step to renewing the Church was embracing and kissing a leper.
I find Pope Francis words a call and a challenge. We are to smell like the sheep. In the world there are many lepers, women who have had an abortion and feel unworthy of love, victims of sexual and physical abuse… the priest can even feel like a leper in the midst of his community.
Probably the most significant healing for the men with leprosy in the Gospel today was when Jesus touched him. He probably got so used to people being afraid to touch him that he must have felt like he was in heaven when Jesus touched him.