Healing of a leper
The healing of a leper takes on an even deeper meaning, because leprosy is a horrible disease caused by the multiplication of a bacillus in the organic tissues: after having attacked the skin, it gradually penetrates into the meat, and corrodes them so that the poor sick people remain completely disfigured.
Gospel - Matthew [8,1-4]
When he came down from the mountain, a large crowd followed him. And behold, a leper came up and prostrated himself before him, saying: "Lord, if you want, you can purify me". Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him saying: "I want it, be purified". And in that instant he was cleansed of leprosy. Jesus said to him: "Be careful not to tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and make the offering that Moses prescribed, and this may serve as a witness to them".
Exegesis - Matthew [8,1-4]With the previous teachings on the mountain, preached to the crowd, Jesus also wanted to form his disciples, to prepare them for their mission. Now the Evangelist presents us Jesus, to whom all the forces of nature are subject, as Healer, the one who came into the world to heal all our infirmities. To this end he groups together in the two Chapters 8 and 9 ten miracles which occurred at various times, which follow a logical order. This Chapter 8 is marked by the implementation of the mission of Jesus, based on three messianic signs: teaching, healing of diseases, liberation of the demon.
"When Jesus came down from the mountain, a great crowd followed him. And behold, a leper approached and prostrated himself before him [...]"; but why a leper and not a blind, deaf, paralytic? This is also his first recovery, so the leper's intervention takes on an even deeper meaning, because leprosy is a horrible disease caused by the multiplication of a special bacillus (Bacillus leprae) in organic tissues: after attacking the skin, it penetrates little by little in the meat, and it corrodes them so that the poor sick remain completely disfigured.
It has always been recognized as contagious, and the ancient law had for this reason provided for a whole series of precautions to avoid the people's contact with lepers: it was difficult to heal, it was irreversible and in most cases led to death. Disease that no man could heal, leprosy was also considered the sign of God's punishment; it is enough to recall the example of Job who, struck by leprosy, is consoled by some of his friends with arguments about his trials which burden his sufferings even more, so much so that he defines them as "troublesome comforters" (Job 16: 2); thus begins a discussion between Job and his three friends, convinced that suffering is always and necessarily a consequence of sin; Job does not claim to be a perfect man, but he firmly rejects their judgment and fails to understand God's apparent harshness towards him.
In this account of the Gospel of Matthew, the leper goes to Jesus and asks to be purified, because leprosy constituted a legal garbage (And behold, a leper, approaching him, prostrated himself before him, saying: "Lord, if you will, you can purify me"). Anyone who touched it would become impure! However, that leper has a lot of courage: he transgresses the norms of religion in order to be able to approach and get in touch with Jesus: "If you want, you can heal me!" that is "there is no need to touch me, your will is enough to heal me!". And incredibly Jesus, "reaching out his hand, touched him saying: "I want it, be purified. "And in that instant he was purified of leprosy!".
The request of the leper to Jesus is very interesting, who does not say "heal me", but "Lord, if you want, you can purify me"; it is the interior attitude of a man who manifests the fear of God and has within himself the absolute certainty that Jesus has the power of God and nothing is impossible to him. What enabled him to recognize Jesus? Faith, which pushes him to overcome even the fear of being punished as the law imposed total isolation so as not to infect other people.
And despite Jesus orders the man: "Be careful not to tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and make the offering that Moses prescribed, and this may serve as a testimony to them", the Gospel of Mark adds that the man did not appear, rather he began to divulge the news, so much so that Jesus could no longer enter the city publicly, because he had touched the leper and had therefore become impure before the religious authorities, rigorous interpreters of the law of the time.
In fact, at that time, in order to be readmitted to the community, a leper needed a "certificate of healing" and the law ordered that it be issued by a priest for a fee from the cured person which, if rich, consisted of two lambs, a sheep, two turtle doves or two spotless doves, and a given quantity of flour and oil; if he were poor, he would have offered a lamb and two turtle doves or two doves, and a smaller quantity of flour and oil.
The fact that Jesus had healed the leper would have been for the Priests a witness and proof that He was the Messiah sent by God; instead they, after having learned of the healing from the crowds and not from the healed leper who - according to what Mark reported - did not come to them, took this as a pretext to consider Jesus himself unclean and transgressor of that law that tradition had established in defense of the power of judgment of the Priests and not of the respect for the Father's will.
Instead, what counts is the testimony of how the leper's healing takes place, without the need for further explanations and justifications: "Lord, if you want, you can purify me". Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him saying: "I want it, be purified".