The action of the leper gives a new courage for all kinds of marginalized people that anybody can approach Jesus without any fear but with complete hope and total trust. No one is out of the salvation plan. Everybody, provided, they come to Jesus can attain salvation. As Jesus once said it may be these kinds of people, the least among all, who enter the kingdom of God ahead of others (Mt 21, 31). Because while all others were free to hear from Jesus, it was this leper, who, was unable to hear Jesus freely, could have the real faith and hence could benefit from Jesus first (first according to the narration of St.
Matthew). This gives the impression that those who are seemingly inside may not be so, but those who are condemned to be out may be inside. Hence all should examine themselves the status of their life and should approach Jesus as if they are lepers.3.2.4 THEME OF DISCIPLESHIPAn analysis of the text shows that Matthew conveys the idea of two kinds of discipleship in this miracle.
One is of the large crowd who followed Jesus, but remaining passive always even after listening to his words and witnessing his mighty deeds. The other one is of the leper of whom we are unaware of how he came to know about Jesus. But it is certain that he has not listened to the words and acts of Jesus directly because Jesus did everything in public and the leper was denied of coming to the public. He might have heard about Jesus from a witness or hearer. But still he could come to the belief in Jesus and in his power and hence could approach Jesus. His actions such as adoration given to Jesus, belief in the power of Jesus, and the total trust by submitting him to the will of Jesus characterizes the true discipleship. A disciple should always be ready to take a step ahead to Jesus different from others. Then only he achieve spiritual as well as, if God wills, material benefits from God. The leper’s demand was to cleanse him and it has a more spiritual and mental aspect than the material one. Because in this incident the physical healing was a pre-requisite for the admission to the society and religion back which will heal him spiritually and mentally by being accepted by all including God. A disciple should always be ready to take up challenges and sufferings. The leper was daring to come to Jesus while a big crowd was present and hence he could merit out of it. It is true that the great crowd followed Jesus because they have heard him. But they are always remaining passive and the gospel does not say that they have merited anything out of these. A mere listening to the words of Jesus is not enough but the subsequent actions also should reflect in our lives.The plea of the leper that if you choose is also significant here. This humble and submissive request may also imply that if you do not will I am ready to remain in this misery. The true disciple should be ready to submit himself for the will of God. Not the material benefits, but the spiritual blessings are the higher ones. 3.2.5 MISSIONARY ASPECTSSome of the missionary aspects also can be drawn from this passage especially in the scenario of renewed spirit of mission work in India, very specially in the Syro-Malabar Church with the reception of all India jurisdiction. Our missionary role can have its basis on the very fact that Jesus was a missionary, more precisely, an itinerant missionary. All the gospels portray a Jesus who is in movement. A disciple also should be one who is on the way. While he goes to his destination, i.e. God, he also should not go alone, but should adjoin others with him as Jesus was never alone on his way even at death. The fruit of the mission work is the gift of Holy Spirit and not of our work. He is the primary agent in conversion. He reveals Jesus Christ to us and only by his work we can come into the knowledge of God. To do this, Christ sent the Holy Spirit from the Father to exercise inwardly his saving influence, and to promote the spread of the Church. Hence whatever activities one have done, he/she cannot claim that this mission work should bring forth such and such fruits as he/she wishes. Jesus had preached to a great crowd and they were passive to his teachings as far as we know. But the leper, who has only a second hand information about Jesus came to the belief in him. Similarly, while all the Israelites who have listened to the words of Jesus were present there, it was a gentile centurion who showed the greatest faith than any of them about which Jesus exclaimed saying that he could not find such a faith anywhere in Israel (Mt. 8, 10). But Jesus is not desperate by seeing the passivity of the vast majority. He is extending his hands to the one who has approached him. Because it tis the will of the Father. The conversion of minds need its time and a missionary should submit himself before the will of God. Everything will be realized in the fullness of time which God alone knows.The same is the case with any pastors or anyone in charge of the souls. We have to do what is asked by God and should wait until the time which God has decided comes and we should we compassionate to them always. We should let them to hear from us and accompany us. When one of them, even the least one, shows a good sign the pastor should be careful enough to bring him back and not to hurt him as some of our pastors unknowingly done.3.3 SOCIAL DIMENSIONS OF THE MIRACLE3.3.1 LEPROSY IN THE SOCIETY TODAYJust as there are a number of kinds of religious leprosies,’ our society also has the same in a variety of kinds. Pope Francis, who is known for his special concern for the poor and the marginalized, speaks of the current trends emerged out of utilitarianism and pragmatism. Accordingly, nowadays, when someone dies out of hunger, it is not a viral news to be considered while a decrease of mere two points in the stock market is an important news. This is a kind of marginalization. Pope also speaks of the wide spread throw away’ culture which is now extended even to the throwing away of useless human beings after their maximum utilization. He gives emphasis for the new dimension of being marginalized and alienated like lepers. He says, those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised ” they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the exploited but the outcast, the leftovers. Pope even gives a passive reference to the leprosy in his Gaudete et Exsultate, that those who have the experience of the sufferings and who found consolation in Christ Jesus will find meaning of life by helping those who suffer by understanding their distress and are not afraid to draw near, even to touch their wounds. All kinds of distances and limitations will cease to exist there. It is to be noted that only who could found consolation in Christ Jesus can be compassionate to others in the same manner as that of Jesus.A wide spread culture which we witness nowadays is the misuse of media which have spoiled the life and good future of many innocent people. The mass media is now hunting people to increase their rating and in doing so they forget all the ethics. Whether the person in their concern is a culprit or innocent is not a matter to them. Social media and other types of communication media are also not excluded from such behaviors. People share and publish the news, videos, and photos without even thinking about the reality and the hidden motives behind it. A recent example is the viral media spread through social media on the marriage of two students of minor age from Kerala which was actually a video created as part of a short film but later misused by somebody to create a fake news. Thus a number of people and families have lost their good reputation by the misdeeds in different kinds of media and many have become isolated from the society. In addition to the lepers, their family would also have been suffering because of this fate. Similarly the marginalizations would make the families also suffer certain kind of alienations in the society and religion especially in the cases of criminals, prisoners, drug addicts, transgenders, teenage and unwed mothers etc. People will approach them only with suspicion.3.3.2 THE ATTITUDE OF THE LEPER AS A MODEL FOR THE OUTCASTThe courage shown by the leper should be an example for those who are oppressed and marginalized, for those who are alienated from the mainstream of the society. He was courage enough to come forward ignoring the presence of the crowd. All the movements and victories by the oppressed in the history of the world are always because of the courage of some persons to go against the wrong custom forgetting the anticipated oppositions. This can be achieved only if one trusts in God totally. The plea of the leper was not an attempt to check his luck, but it was a plea out of complete confidence in the mercy of God. CONCLUSIONThe miracle of healing of the leper, more accurately, cleansing of the leper, is relevant in today’s socio-religious dimensions both from the perspective of the mere account of the miracle in the four verses and also from the wider perspective of the gospel and the whole Bible. It has its basis in the Messianic mission of Jesus Christ, that is, Jesus as prophet, priest and liberator. There are many types of alienations and marginalization in the current society which can be identified with the total alienation of the lepers of Jesus’ time. The business attitude of the current society and its focus on one’s own pleasures and wealth make this problem sever and wider. Here arises the role of the Church and of all the faithful. We who follow Jesus and partake in his ministries are to do what he had done or what he meant by his actions. Hence it is the prime duty of all the Christians, not only of the clergy, to strive for the uplifting of the weak, poor and the outcast. We have seen from the analysis of the text that the whole life of Christ has an orientation towards the poor and the weak which is very much reflected in this miracle too. By partaking in the ministries of Jesus both priests and faithful under the leadership of their bishops should strive locally and also in the wider context to sweep away the problems in the society and Church. We should always be vigilant to cast away any stains of marginalization that can come into the Church. The passage also gives us message of strong faith and of the real discipleship. The Christian with real faith will not become desperate in the misfortunes of life but rather will rely on God with complete trust and hope.