Imagine that you live in ancient times and that you have a skin condition that is diagnosed as leprosy.

That would be a disaster, where you would be condemned to live an existence where you are ostracised by your own community and loved ones in exclusion and misery. You are labelled as “unclean”, which will be a social stigma that you will carry with you for life. A quick death would be a welcome relief for such a person.

For someone living in the 21st century it seems that the law that was given to Moses with regard to lepers feels a bit cruel and savage when advances in modern science today allow a cure for leprosy. Yet, in a similar light, there are certain communities in India in this present age who live under the yoke of a caste system. At the bottom of the caste hierarchy are the Pariahs or the untouchables, those who are ostracised and live apart from the other communities as they are considered as being below the dignity of the human person. They are considered unclean and untouchable, and live in constant shame and agony with little access to upward mobility.

While this occurrence appears too far away removed from us, so much so that we cannot even bother ourselves with it, the reality is that there are parishioners in our community who are suffering from similar alienation and ostracisation. They often suffer from loneliness and are found in such faces as the elderly person living alone in a rental flat, or the frail men or women sleeping in the void deck below our HDB homes. These are the people who are exist at the fringes.

In the Gospel of today, Jesus didn’t hesitate to reach out and touch the untouchable, unclean man and make him clean. Jesus felt sorry for the leper and partook in the man’s pain and agony by touching him physically and healing him spiritually. Jesus has set an example for us the disciples of Christ to imitate in our daily lives to those around us regardless of their social status, race or religion and to reach out to the less fortunate around us. In our fast-paced lifestyles, in our pursuit of paper qualifications, wealth, fame, and glory, will our priorities be pleasing to God our Father?

Written by Thomas