What do we have in common with people’s mentality in biblical times? Well, for one, we both highly appreciate hygiene and flawless skin! The first reading (Leviticus 13) lays out the prescribed status and movement in society of Israel’s so-called lepers. Actually, we cannot be sure if the biblical description of leprosy really points to the dreaded disease known to our modern science.

It seems to many scholars that the Jews were very sensitive regarding skin disorders. So though generically called “leprosy,” the Bible must have referred to other skin irritations, allergies or irruptions which were lumped under one nomenclature. At least today we have a superabundance of skin specialists who distinguish between pimple and acne, and rashes and chicken pox marks!

People with leprosy were considered “unholy” and were treated as outcasts, outsiders, and undesirable men and women who had to involuntarily leave behind family and friends that do not want them anymore. They were not hated like enemies were. They were unloved as nobody should be, especially in a milieu that prided itself with religiosity and faith.

Why is it that in the church we continue to think in terms of the obsolete view of lepers in the bible? Since we are in pursuit of holiness and perfection, today we still throw away people who do not measure up to our standards, who taint the purity of our ranks, and who bring shame rather than honor to our community.

Don’t we have modern lepers in our faith communities today?: people in irregular marriage status, those living in with partners, people with unacceptable sexual and gender preferences, those who failed to make the mark, the ones who live in the margins due to poverty, ignorance, and physical disability. This explains in part why these people leave the church or reject God altogether.

For the Lord Jesus, what is holy does not separate, but integrates specially the unclean and the sinful. This is why Jesus became human. He tells us that the glory of God is not found in heaven above. The holiness of God is lived in union with all men and women. Our Christian commitment pushes us to imitate Jesus who welcomes and embraces all God’s children into the family of the Kingdom of the Father.