It is not an uncommon experience sometimes for us to feel like we are an “outsider”. In some groups of people we can have a sense that we are not welcome or we don’t belong. Of course, depending on who we are; or on our ethnic origins; or on our social standing in the community; or on our level of education; or on the colour of our skin etc, our sense of sometimes feeling like an “outsider” can be exacerbated.

It seems that our contemporary society is built on the ideology of discrimination. The press constantly makes distinctions between certain human beings; “boat people” are distinguished from “immigrants”: People of a “middle eastern appearance” are distinguished from the rest of us. In some sense these distinctions are understandable. In another sense such distinctions perpetuate the ideology that some human beings have a greater right to be treated with dignity then others.

In today’s Gospel story, Jesus meets a man suffering from leprosy. People had unrealistic fears about leprosy in Jesus’ time. These fears led to the ostracism of such people. Lepers were forced to live apart from everyone else; generally on the outskirts of the village or town. Offshore processing of asylum seekers is a contemporary example of ostracism of people who are different to the rest of us.

Today’s story about the cure of a leaper by Jesus is, in fact, more about confronting the ideology of ostracism than it is about healing. When the leper says to Jesus, “If you want to, you can cure me”, Jesus says “Of course I want to”.

In spite of the norms of our contemporary society, we also “want to” treat all people as dignified human beings. As followers of Jesus we do not want to exclude or ostracise people because they are considered to be “different” to the rest of society. It does take a fair amount of courage to be accepting of all people and it does involve some risk. We are told, in today’s’ Gospel, that Jesus had the courage and was prepared to take a risk to respond positively to the leper. It seems that it warrants serious consideration.

Rev Fr Tom Stevens