I wonder what it felt like to be a first century leper. I know it had to be painful and frustrating because of the nature of the disease. But, it also had to be lonely and depressing. To be unable to be a part of society, unwelcome in the marketplaces, and unwilling to spend time with friends and family for fear of passing the destructive skin disease on to them must have been horribly difficult.
One leper was so fed up, and so hopeful that Jesus could heal him, that he ventured to where the people were, risking rejection to come before Jesus and to fall down to worship Him, pleading for Jesus to make him clean. And Jesus, with compassion in His eyes and healing in His hands, touched the leper.
You see, for Jesus helping the sick, outcasts, and poor was not about giving them money. Certainly He was concerned with providing monetary resources for those in need. He told a rich young ruler to sell everything he owned and give it to the poor. But, Jesus taught us, over and over again, with His words and actions, that it is not money that people need from us most–they need our time, attention, and love.
And this is why we need real, Biblical health care reform: because throwing money at the problem is not and will never be enough. Government assistance programs are not necessarily about caring for people, but about giving them money. Likewise, many times in the Church our help for the needy does not necessarily focus on healing, listening to, hugging, affirming, and teaching them, but on giving them money. We may be more than happy to give, but too often we are not ready to embrace the sick and poor.
Which is why Jesus placed His hand on the leper. Though He could have healed him with a word, instead He “stretched out His hand and touched Him.” He knows what people need, and He wanted to show us.
You see, the leper needed that touch, probably more than He needed healing. He longed for relief from isolation, probably more than he longed for relief from his disease. He didn’t specifically ask for Jesus to heal him, he asked Jesus to make him clean. He wanted relief from the stigma of the disease, from banishment, and from having to shout “Unclean!” wherever he went so people would know to run away from him. And Jesus granted him relief with physical human contact. Jesus not only cured his leprosy, He cured his loneliness.
And that’s what real health care reform is about. We are to be Jesus to the lepers, sinners, tax-collectors, Gentiles, prostitutes, and poor of today. Though they may need your money, it is your smile, your kind words, your time and attention, your love and compassion that will bring the healing they truly require. Our world needs us more than they need our things. It’s about time we gave them both.