Last week I set myself the challenge of trying to spend less time looking at screens; in particular, I was going to try and say my Office prayers using the book instead of doing it on the computer. Well, my week was partially successful as I managed the first five days doing my evening prayers using the book and also reading from the Bible for my ‘Bible in a Year’ instead of reading the bible passages from the links sent by email. But I must confess that as the busy-ness of the week caught up with me, the convenience of the screen helped me to find the few minutes I needed to fit in all of the things which I had promised to myself. I will try improve on this next week.

The term unclean, as used today in our first reading from Leviticus refers to being separated from God. If someone noticed blemishes on their skin, they were to go to the priest and if a case of leprosy was diagnosed they were to be excluded from the camp. They were to warn others of their uncleanness and no-one was to touch them for fear of being declared unclean themselves. These were principally Spiritual laws, but they also protected the ‘camp’ from outbreaks of illness, by quarantining the unfortunate soul from the community.

There is an irony in today’s Gospel where the leper, the one who was excluded from society can re-join his Community once Jesus cures him. However, Jesus now finds that He is unable to venture into the towns, because everyone wanted to see Him and be with Him as a result of the miracle He performed by healing the leper.

The rituals concerning all manners of life laid down in the Book of Leviticus gave specific rules about touching, and cleanliness, and purification. By touching the leper, Jesus was potentially making Himself unclean, but Jesus demonstrated here that He has authority over both the leprosy and the laws which the Jewish people followed.

I’d like to focus on one little sentence from our Gospel reading though, the leper’s first words to Jesus were “If you want to, you can cure me”. Jesus’ response was “Of course I want to”. Jesus shows the man compassion, a compassion which we are called to mirror in today’s world.

A leper was an outcast, judged by the priest of the day and by society as being unclean, shunned by their neighbours, treated worse than a dog in the street. Everyone avoided them. What must that have been like for their mental health? How could they motivate themselves to get up every morning and attend to their own basic needs? Jesus, by touching the man was signifying the start of a new law; we are to love our neighbour, we are to love the outcast, we are to love our enemies.

We might say that we don’t see any lepers in the streets of Southern England, but we still see outcasts. There are those with mental health issues, those with alcohol or drug dependencies, there are the people who can’t speak English, migrants looking for a better life for themselves and their families. All of these are sons and daughters, all of them may have been brothers and sisters in families who may have exhausted every last bit of effort before they realised, they can no longer cope with them. All of these excluded people are looking to us as the Body of Christ here on earth today and saying “If you want to, you can help me”. How do we as the Body of Christ reply?

Closer to home we may have friends and family who are lonely, maybe struggling with this lockdown; young parents, neighbours maybe struggling with home schooling. Young people who’s parents may be unable to help them with their studies and are struggling to get the right support, they are also saying “If you want to, you can help me”. We may not be able to physically go and help just now, but we are able to help with loneliness by making a quick phone call. We may not be able to go and physically help with the challenges of home schooling, but again we may be able to help with suggestions, maybe taking a session with the children online – giving the parents some respite and the children a different voice and perspective to listen to.

God gave us free will to choose what we do and what we say, today Jesus is asking us to choose to help those less fortunate than ourselves, He is asking us to seek out the outcast and bring them into our Community, Jesus is asking us to say time and time again “Of course I want to help you”.

In our Second Reading today St Paul asks people to try not to offend others, to be helpful to others and to take him as a model – just as he takes Christ as his model. He is again pointing towards Jesus as our Saviour, our King and our role model.

Lent starts on Wednesday, with the sprinkling of ashes on our heads. Have we thought about what we are going to do during Lent to help prepare ourselves for Easter this year? As I have already shared I will be taking part alongside Fr Dominic, Fr Leo and many other parishioners in the CAFOD Walk for Water Challenge. But I am also looking at reading more; especially the religious books which I struggle to get round to, as well as watching less TV and eating less. This is a time not only to give things up, but to perhaps do something extra for God. Friends have gifted me a little book called “Walk with Me” it is a daily reflection throughout Lent, I will be building this into my daily prayer time. I normally switch off my Social Media pages during Lent and Advent, but this year I will still use them to promote the CAFOD Challenge.

This week Jesus touched the leper and changed his life for ever. Whose life can we touch this week? We might not change their life; but we could certainly brighten their day.

Please keep in your prayers this week

  • For us all, that we may identify the lepers in our life and that we may find the courage to recognise them as our brothers and sisters, welcoming them into our lives.
  • All those who are sick, we pray that Jesus will heal them as he healed those in Capernaum.
  • For those who are unemployed and seeking work, we pray that the Lord guides them towards an employer who needs them.
  • Our doctors, nurses, care workers and health workers who are under extreme pressure, we ask for their protection.
  • For all those taking part in the Walk for Water campaign.
  • For those suffering from Domestic abuse in our local area that they will have the strength and courage to seek support
  • For those who do not believe in God, that this Lent and Easter will open their eyes to the magnificent wonder of our Creator.
  • For all those in our Parish and Diocese who are preparing to come into the Church or to receive Sacraments, many of whom would normally attend the Rite of Election next Saturday. We pray that their preparations are blessed by the grace of God and the support in prayer of their friends, families and fellow Parishioners.

Once again, I thank those who have sponsored me on my Walk for Water Challenge in aid of Cafod. At the time of writing I have reached 58% of my target before a step has been taken. The serious walking starts on Ash Wednesday and will go on throughout Lent. If you would like to sponsor me, please go to Deacon Tony’s Walk for Water Challenge | Walk for Water | CAFOD

All donations are greatly appreciated and as always if you are unable to financially support me or the others taking part your prayers are very welcome.