First reading 1 Samuel 4:1-11

Israel is defeated and the ark of God is captured

It happened at that time that the Philistines mustered to fight Israel and Israel went out to meet them in battle, encamping near Ebenezer while the Philistines were encamped at Aphek. The Philistines drew up their battle line against Israel, the battle was hotly engaged, and Israel was defeated by the Philistines and about four thousand of their army were killed on the field. The troops returned to the camp and the elders of Israel said, ‘Why has the Lord allowed us to be defeated today by the Philistines? Let us fetch the ark of our God from Shiloh so that it may come among us and rescue us from the power of our enemies.’’ So the troops sent to Shiloh and brought away the ark of the Lord of Hosts, he who is seated on the cherubs; the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, came with the ark. When the ark of the Lord arrived in the camp, all Israel gave a great shout so that the earth resounded. When the Philistines heard the noise of the shouting, they said, ‘What can this great shouting in the Hebrew camp mean?’ And they realised that the ark of the Lord had come into the camp. At this the Philistines were afraid; and they said, ‘God has come to the camp.’ ‘Alas!’ they cried ‘This has never happened before. Alas! Who will save us from the power of this mighty God? It was he who struck down Egypt with every kind of plague! But take courage and be men, Philistines, or you will become slaves to the Hebrews as they have been slaves to you. Be men and fight.’ So the Philistines joined battle and Israel was defeated, each man fleeing to his tent. The slaughter was great indeed, and there fell of the Israelites thirty thousand foot soldiers. The ark of God was captured too, and the two sons of Eli died, Hophni and Phinehas.

Responsorial Psalm 43(44):10-11,14-15,24-25

Redeem us, O Lord, because of your love.
Yet now you have rejected us, disgraced us;
  you no longer go forth with our armies.
You make us retreat from the foe
  and our enemies plunder us at will.
Redeem us, O Lord, because of your love.
You make us the taunt of our neighbours,
  the laughing-stock of all who are near.
Among the nations, you make us a byword,
  among the peoples a thing of derision.
Redeem us, O Lord, because of your love.
Awake, O Lord, why do you sleep?
  Arise, do not reject us for ever!
Why do you hide your face
  and forget our oppression and misery?
Redeem us, O Lord, because of your love.

Gospel Mark 1:40-45

The leprosy left the man at once, and he was cured

A leper came to Jesus and pleaded on his knees: ‘If you want to’ he said ‘you can cure me.’ Feeling sorry for him, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him. ‘Of course I want to!’ he said. ‘Be cured!’ And the leprosy left him at once and he was cured. Jesus immediately sent him away and sternly ordered him, ‘Mind you say nothing to anyone, but go and show yourself to the priest, and make the offering for your healing prescribed by Moses as evidence of your recovery.’ The man went away, but then started talking about it freely and telling the story everywhere, so that Jesus could no longer go openly into any town, but had to stay outside in places where nobody lived. Even so, people from all around would come to him.

An inclusive love for all

In Jesus’ time, having leprosy means living in isolation and being separated from the rest of the community due to the fear of passing the disease to others. In today’s gospel, a leper somehow sensed that Jesus would not pull away from him, and thus, he took the courage to go  to Him and asked for healing. Jesus, did not pull away from the leper, but He actually stretched out His hand, touched and healed him. The touch of Jesus was the touch of God, i.e. a touch of love that connected with the leper’s pain and suffering. As a result, the leper was healed  and was no longer excluded from the community.
Today’s passage speaks to us of a God who never excludes but always includes. What about us? We might have people in our lives whom  we consider as “lepers”, and ostracise them for one reason or another. Jesus calls us today to bring down the walls that separate us from  others and be instruments of inclusive love that reaches out to connect and build bridges.
Question for reflection:
Am I open to love like Jesus?
Acknowledgment: Reflections are based on “Prayer for Living: The Word of God for Daily Prayer Year C” by Sr. Sandra Seow FMVD.