Christ and the Doctors,
Wedding at Cana, Healing of the Leper, Ivory carving from Metz, France, Probably conceived as a book cover, 9th century, © Bode Museum, Berlin
La lebbra lo lasciò subito e fu guarito
A leper came to Jesus and pleaded on his knees: ‘If you want to’ he said ‘you can cure me.’ Feeling sorry for him, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him. ‘Of course I want to!’ he said. ‘Be cured!’ And the leprosy left him at once and he was cured. Jesus immediately sent him away and sternly ordered him, ‘Mind you say nothing to anyone, but go and show yourself to the priest, and make the offering for your healing prescribed by Moses as evidence of your recovery.’ The man went away, but then started talking about it freely and telling the story everywhere, so that Jesus could no longer go openly into any town, but had to stay outside in places where nobody lived. Even so, people from all around would come to him.
Reflection on the Ivory Plaque
This 9th-century ivory plaque was used as a devotional book cover for an illuminated manuscript. From the 9th till the 13th century, such exquisite ivory carvings were produced all over Europe, often in monasteries and ecclesiastical or royal courts. Used for liturgical purposes, these low relief carvings appeared on book covers, reliquary caskets and religious icons. Our plaque depicts three scenes from the life of Christ: Christ and the Doctors, the Wedding at Cana and the Healing of the Leper, the last one relating to the Gospel reading of today. The leper's bare skin is incised with pin-head sized dots conveying his illness.
Today’s reading shows the compassion Jesus had for the marginalised in society, the ill, the wounded, the fallen. Jesus healed the leper by touch, and so does God. Through the humanity of Jesus, He reaches out His hand every day to touch us as well. There is no clearer display of this than in the sacramental life of the Church: absolution in the confessional heals us; holy communion re-aligns our souls to God, etc… And we get healed by God, in order that we can help heal others too. The outstretched hand of Jesus works through us, so that we ourselves can be used as instruments of that divine touch for others.
We are called to be reaching out with love and compassion to the lonely and isolated in society, such as the homeless around us. Maybe today is a good day to reach out especially to them, during these cold Winter days. Or we can even think of people who don’t have the disease of leprosy, but who are the ‘untouchables’ of today… people whom no one wants to befriend or even talk to. We all know people like that. Today’s reading prompts us to reach out exactly to these people… the new modern day ‘untouchables’ around us...
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