In the sick and suffering, Christians are called to imitate Jesus and do so with tenderness and closeness.
This was the reflection given by Pope Francis today during his Sunday Angelus Address to the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
The Holy Father reflected on today’s Gospel from St. Mark, in which Christ heals a man sick with leprosy. The event, the Pope said, is a symbolic case given that those who were plagued by leprosy were a sign of impurity.
“Leprosy is a contagious and merciless sickness that disfigures the person, and was a symbol of impurity,” he explained. “A leprous person was made to live outside the towns and announce his presence to those passing by. He was marginalized from the civil and religious community. He was like a dead man walking.”
However, he noted, Christ does not shy away from the leper’s affliction, but rather reacts with “the paternal compassion of God. According to the Gospel, Jesus “stretched out his hand, touched him” and healed him. This gesture of touching someone who was cast off as impure by society is symbolic of God’s mercy who exposes Himself to infection of evil in order to heal, the Holy Father explained.
“Jesus, takes from us our sick humanity and we take from Him his healthy and healing humanity,” he said. “This happens every time we receive a Sacrament of faith: the Lord Jesus ‘touches’ us and gives us his grace.”
The Pope went on to say that the Sacrament of Reconciliation exemplifies this mercy, in which Christ takes upon Himself “the weight of our human condition” and frees us “in a radical and definitive way.”
Referring to Christ’s actions in the Gospel, the 78 year old Pontiff called on the faithful to become “imitators of Christ” when caring for the poor and the sick. Christians, he stressed, “should not be afraid to look them in the eyes, to come close to them with tenderness and compassion, and to touch them and embrace them.”
Concluding his address, Pope Francis noted that “if evil is contagious, so is good.”
“Therefore, it is necessary for good to abound in us, ever more. Let us be infected by good and infect others with good!” he said before reciting the Angelus prayer.