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  • Writer's pictureRevShirleyMurphy

The Young Man And The Leper

There is a story from the Middle Ages that has always touched my heart. The grown son of a rich merchant was walking down the road towards his home after visiting friends. As he neared a curb, he heard the ring of a leper’s bell coming from the other way. At that time Leprosy was a highly contagious and incurable disease. Lepers were not allowed in the towns and were forced to ring bells and warn others of their approach as they walked the roads. Before the young man could leave the road, the leper rounded the curb and was suddenly face to face with him.

The leper’s face and body had become horribly disfigured by the disease and when the young man saw him, he drew back in disgust. As the leper lowered his head and began to walk on, however, the young man felt his heart breaking for the man. He quickly caught up to the leper and apologized for how he had acted. Then he gave the leper all the money he was carrying and hugged him. The leper looked at the young man with tears in his eyes and said that was the first time anyone had touched him in many years. That blessed moment began a change in the young man’s heart and started him on a different path that would also affect the whole world. You see that young man would later become Saint Francis of Assisi.

In proclaiming the Good News, we don’t just talk about it. We prove that the kingdom of heaven is real by healing the sick, raising the dead, cleansing the lepers, and overcoming the demons. In our everyday lives, that means taking care of the needs of those who are sick and praying for them. It means taking time to reach those who are spiritually dead and bringing them back to life in God. It means identifying the lies and temptations of the unholy spirits that are affecting the people we know and pointing the way to truth and holiness. It means touching the lepers.

In biblical days, lepers were outcasts. They were forced to spend the rest of their years in leper colonies because healthy people were afraid of catching the disease. Touch was forbidden.

How important touch is! Abandoned babies in institutions die from lack of touch. Marriages wither from lack of hugging. Children grow up with poor self-esteem from lack of physical nurturing. Jesus knew how important touch is. Despite being able to heal people long distance without even seeing the one who was suffering, when it came to dealing with lepers, He not only healed their bodies, but He also healed their spirits by giving them what they needed most — human touch.

A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” He said. “Be clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was cured (Mark 1:40-42 NIV).

When it gets hard, when it really hurts a lot and our instinct is to give up and cast out the lepers, look at Jesus being scourged, Jesus being tortured, Jesus being crowned with thorns, Jesus falling as He carried the cross when He had no energy left, Jesus hanging on the cross and dying. You can unite your sufferings to His. You can feel more closely connected to Him as you lay down your life for the sake of redeeming the lost lambs, He has given you to love.

There are many types of "lepers" in our modern world that could use our love, help, and hugs. The homeless, sick, poor, disabled, elderly, and mentally handicapped often have to wear the "bells" that society forces on them. Many of them go through life either avoided or looked down upon. Like that young man, though, we can make a difference in their lives with just one gesture of caring and love. Like him we can let God’s love shine through us to touch their hearts and souls. And we may also find as he did that their love could touch and change us for the better as well. Remember, in God’s eyes there are no lepers only children needing and deserving love.


Joseph J. Mazzella –

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