A Valentine Story
6th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

Antonio P. Pueyo
Reproduced with Permission

It was a simple mass and wedding ceremony. They exchanged “I do’s”. I pronounced them married and with all the guests and curious onlookers following, the couple led the procession to a little hut for the wedding banquet. I was given a seat and I gave the blessing before the meal. It was like any other wedding except that the bride and groom were both lepers, so were most of the guests at the table. The couple were both young when they met at the Sanitarium. They fell in love. The disease may have afflicted their skin but not their hearts. Love has triumphed in that otherwise miserable environment.

Action starter: God may call you to do something unconventional.

That was twenty years ago. There would be other weddings, baptisms, sick calls and funerals to attend to in the ten years that I was a week-end chaplain in that government leprosarium. Some sisters volunteered to work with me and they bathed and cleaned the patients, talked to them and all in all, brought rays of sunshine to the afflicted.

Leprosy is a disease that dates back to biblical times. It was a dreaded disease then. Today with the advent of super drugs, it is curable. The first reading tells us how the Israelites took precaution so that a leper would not contaminate others in the community. They were to live outside the community, “He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease; he is unclean; he shall dwell alone in a habitation outside the camp. (Lev. 12:46).” A leper therefore did not just suffer physically. He also suffered ostracism from the community.

The Gospel of Mark tells the story of Jesus healing the leper (Mk. 1:40-43). The leper broke conventions by going near Jesus and crying out, “If you will, you can make me clean.” He was not supposed to go near anybody. Jesus also broke conventions by touching the leper and thus ritually making himself unclean. However, the good news is, instead of Jesus becoming unclean, the leper became clean, “And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.”

This miracle happened because two people took risks. The leper and Jesus put themselves on the line, the leper by approaching Jesus and Jesus by touching the leper. They both took steps to think “outside the box.”

Conventional thinking has its wisdom. It grew out of the desire to pursue the common good. Definitely, at a time when leprosy was incurable, it made a lot of sense to disallow lepers to join the regular social life. However, there are times when such conventional thinking may be challenged for something good to happen. There are situations where conventional thinking enshrines sin. Racial discrimination and discrimination against women are examples of conventional thinking that harbors oppression. Conventional thinking may also blind even experts to the evidences at hand. The experience of one African nation showed that the active promotion of abstinence and sexual discipline among young people has dramatically lessened AIDS, yet against such evidence so-called experts still promote condom use as the solution. For something good to happen, we may have to think outside of the box.

There is a happy sequel to that wedding. The couple got well, with the help of modern drugs, they had a daughter, and are now respected leaders of the community where they settled as farmers.