Fr Paul reads from the Gospel of Mark (1: 40-45) in which, Jesus willingly reaches out to touch a leper and heal him. Fr Paul says, Mark shows the warmth of Jesus’ humanity and his concern for the leper. The leper has no right even to approach Jesus, but he must have felt that he would get a favourable response from Jesus. In today’s Gospel, we hear the words that ‘Jesus felt sorry for him’ and this is a weak translation of the original Greek.

The Greek is far stronger: it is literally translated ‘Jesus was gutted’; in other words, Jesus felt for this man to the very depths of his being. Then we hear Jesus doing the unthinkable, he touches him. By touching the leper Jesus makes himself ritually impure and risks catching the infection. We can only imagine the sheer horror of the bystanders at this courageous and outrageous expression of love and sympathy. As we come to the end, we see that Jesus because of his popularity has almost become a leper himself where he can’t go into any town or place.

He has to stay outside. But, Fr Paul notes, it is a beautiful picture of the whole-hearted emotional involvement with the sufferer that we see through Jesus’ eyes today. Our Gospel Lesson today – be prepared to take a risk for the sake of those who need our love and sympathy.