6th Sunday in Ordinary Time
We may not like it, but generosity and risk often go hand-in-hand. At least, that’s what Jesus shows us in today’s Gospel as a leper approaches him for healing. Until the nineteenth century, lepers were shunned to the margins of society for fear of spreading the disease. To touch a leper was to risk becoming unclean yourself. In today’s Gospel, Jesus defies convention. “Moved with pity, he reached out his hand, [and] touched him.” The leper is healed! But this is not the only risk Jesus takes.
Before Jesus heals the man, he knows full well the desperate nature of his situation. Jesus knows that this man will be overjoyed upon being healed and that he just might tell everyone he knows. For a Messiah looking to temporarily fly under the radar, healing this particular leper might not be the best idea. Jesus heals anyway.
It can be easy to become calculated in our giving. If I go out of my way to help this person, how will it affect my reputation? How will this charitable donation affect my budget? How could I possibly make time to volunteer regularly? In today’s Gospel, Jesus casts these concerns aside. He touches the untouchable. He reaches the unreachable. For his efforts, he receives a betrayal of his request for silence. “The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter.” Before long “it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly.” Jesus is forced to remain “outside in the deserted places.” It would appear, perhaps, that he is unable to accomplish his mission.
When we take a risk to be generous, things might not follow the prescribed path. We might be disappointed. We also might be surprised! Our witness to radical generosity is attractive to a world in desperate need. Indeed, when Jesus took risks for love, “People kept coming to him from everywhere.”
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