Dear brothers and sisters, good morning.
In these past Sundays, Mark the evangelist has recalled Jesus’ actions against every kind of evil, for the benefit of those who suffer in body and in spirit: the possessed, the sick, the sinners…He presents Himself as the one who fights and conquers evil wherever He finds it. In today’s Gospel (cfr Mc. 1, 40-45) his struggle faces an emblematic case, because the sick one is a leper. Leprosy is a contagious and merciless sickness, that disfigures the person, and was a symbol of impurity; a leprous person was made to live outside the towns and announce his presence to those passing by. He was marginalized from the civil and religious community. He was like a dead man walking.
The episode of the leper’s healing takes place in three brief passages: the invocation of the sick person, Jesus’ response, and the consequence of the prodigious healing. The leper begs Jesus “kneeling” and says: “If you wish, you can make me clean.” (v.40) To this humble and trustful prayer, Jesus reacts with a profound attitude from his soul: compassion. And “compassion” is one of the most profound words: compassion means to “suffer-with-the other.” Christ’s heart manifests the paternal compassion of God for that man, coming close to him and touching him. And this particular moment is very important. Jesus “stretched out his hand, touched him…and the leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean.” (v.41) The mercy of God overcomes every obstacle and the hand of Jesus touches the leper. He does not arise from a safe distance and does not act by proxy, but exposes Himself directly to the infection of our evil; and so our own evil becomes the place of contact. He, Jesus, takes from us our sick humanity and we take from Him his healthy and healing humanity. This happens every time we receive a Sacrament of faith: the Lord Jesus “touches” us and gives us His grace. In this case, we think especially of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, that heals us from the leprosy of sin. Yet once again, the Gospel shows us what God does in front of our evil. God does not come “to give us a lecture” on pain; he does not even come to eliminate suffering and death from the world; He comes rather to take upon himself the weight of our human condition, to bring it till the end, to free us in a radical and definitive way. That is how Christ fights the evil and sufferings of the world: by taking it upon Himself and overcoming it with the strength of the mercy of God.
For us, today, the Gospel of the leper’s healing says that, if we want to be true disciples of Jesus, we are called to become, united to Him, instruments of his merciful love, overcoming every kind of marginalization. To become “imitators of Christ” (cfr 1 Cor 11,1) in front of a poor or sick person, we should not be afraid to look them in the eyes, to come close to them with tenderness and compassion, and to touch them and embrace them. I’ve asked often, to people who help others, to do it looking at them in the eyes, to not be afraid of touching them; that the helpful gesture may be a gesture of communication: we must also need to feel welcomed by them. A gesture of tenderness, a gesture of compassion…But I ask you: When you help others, do you look them in the eyes? Do you receive them without fear of touching them? Do you receive them with tenderness? Think of this: how do you help? From a distance or with tenderness, with closeness? If evil is contagious, so is good. Therefore, it is necessary for good to abound in us, ever more. Let us be infected by good and infect others with good!
After the Angelus
Dear brothers and sisters,
I send serene and peaceful wishes to all the men and women in the Far East and in various parts of the world who are preparing themselves to celebrate the Lunar New Year. These festivities offer them the happy occasion to rediscover and live brotherhood in an intense way, that is a precious link of family life and the foundation of social life. This annual return to the roots of the person and the family can help that people to build a society in which relationships marked by respect, justice and charity are weaved.
I greet all of you, Romans and pilgrims; in particular, those who have come on the occasion of the Consistory, to accompany the new Cardinals; I thank the countries who wished to be present here at this event with the official delegations. Let us greet the new Cardinals with an applause!
I greet the Spanish pilgrims from San Sebastián, Campo de Criptana, Orense, Pontevedra and Ferrol; the students from the Campo Valongo and Porto, in Portugal, and those from Paris; the “Christian Institutes Forum” from Slovakia; the faithful from Buren (Holland), the United States military personnel stationed in Germany and the Venezuelan community living in Italy.
I greet the youth of Busca, the faithful from leno, Mussoi, Monteolimpino, Rivalta sul Mincio e Forette di Vigasio. There are many school groups and catechism groups from many parts of Italy – i see the confirmed from Galzignano…: My dear ones, I encourage you to be joyful and courageous witnesses of Jesus in your everyday life.
To all I wish a good Sunday, Please, do not forget to pray for me. Have a good lunch and goodbye.