When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram again, and said to him, "I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless." God said to Abraam, "As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised.
God said to Abraham, "As for Sarah your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her." Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said to himself, "Can a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Can Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?" And Abraham said to God, "O that Ishmael might live in your sight!" God said, "No, but your wife Sarah shall bear you a son, and you shall name him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. As for Ishmael, I have heard you; I will bless him and make him fruitful and exceedingly numerous; he shall be the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this season next year." And when he had finished talking with him, God went up from Abraham.
O blessed are those who fear the Lord
and walk in his ways!
By the labour of your hands you shall eat.
You will be happy and prosper. (R./)
Your wife like a fruitful vine
in the heart of your house;
your children like shoots of the olive,
around your table. (R./)
Indeed thus shall be blessed
the man who fears the Lord.
May the Lord bless you from Zion
all the days of your life! (R./)
When Jesus had come down from the mountain, great crowds followed him; and there was a leper who came to him and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean." He stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, "I do choose. Be made clean!" Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. Then Jesus said to him, "See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them."
Some laws are fundamental while others may be disregarded, in certain circumstance. When Jesus cured the man of a contagious skin disease, he reminded him, "See to it that you tell no one. Go and show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses prescribed.." We may ask, couldn't the priests get along without the gift from a poor man who had very little to spare? But the required gift was very small, and it served to show that the former outcast was welcome back join the community. The leper would be allowed back into the temple and synagogue, after years of enforced absence. He would have his self-respect and dignity restored.
Laws are sometimes also disregarded, for good reason. Tradition forbade a devout Jew to touch anyone legally unclean; and lepers were among the most untouchable of all. On hearing the leper's passionate plea, "Sir, if you want to, you can cure me!" Jesus chose to ignore that prohibition, and with deep compassion touched the man, and cured him. That gesture made Jesus ceremonially unclean and would keep him from entering the house of God until he made amends. This was not a disdainful breaking of the law; Jesus went around or above it, giving priority to the supreme law of compassion. One must keep laws in the spirit of their originator, which is the merciful God.
This same merciful God finally gave Abraham and Sarah what they had longed for. Where hope continues to spring up, "Those that sow in tears shall reap rejoicing" (Ps 126:5). The elderly couple will give birth to new life. Such are the ways of a compassionate God.
Lepers in antiquity were the great untouchables. Through touch, their disease could pass to other members of the community. The law demanded that lepers lives apart, with only other lepers for company. But Jesus did not hesitate to touch the leper. He did not fear to be contaminated by that outreach, rather, his touch would heal the leper. The man had approached Jesus with the very tentative request, "If you want to, you can cure me." But there was nothing tentative about Jesus' response, "Of course I want to. Be made clean!"
The story shows how Jesus does not hesitate to touch us, even the damaged parts of our lives. The Lord has no fear of being contaminated by us. He enters fully into the darker places of our experience, with his healing, life-giving presence. His concern for our well-being knows no barriers. The Lord wants to touch us just as we are, not as we should be or could be. But we need to approach him with trust, as the leper did, "Lord, if you want to, you can cure me."