February 9, 2021
There is a particular word in our gospel reading that is worth further reflection. Most manuscripts upon which our Gospel text is based suggest that Jesus is moved with “pity” when He sees the man filled with leprosy. But there are some reputable manuscripts that suggest that Jesus became “angry” or “indignant” when the man approached him. Interestingly, here, Jesus’ anger or indignation is not directed against this man because he is interrupting or bothering Jesus. Rather, Jesus’ anger and indignation is that such a state of affairs would exist for this man. How can someone who is in such need, be isolated and marginalized by others in the community? Given his righteous anger over the situation of the man, Jesus assures the man that He wants to heal him.
There is a further challenge regarding the use of a word in this passage. If, as the majority of good Greek manuscripts indicate, Jesus is filled with “pity” we should look at the Greek word that is being translated into the word “pity.” The Greek word is σπλαγχνισθεὶς (splanchnistheis). This word means that someone’s guts are twisted around. We might think of how a mother might feel when watching her child in agony or how anyone might feel when seeing an innocent person being unjustly persecuted. This is what moves Jesus: not pity but compassion. When we pity someone, we feel sorry for them. When we have compassion for someone, we suffer with them and work to relieve their suffering.
So, what might we learn from a deeper understanding of words in this passage? First, we should become indignant whenever one of our brothers or sisters in the human family is marginalized and neglected. Second, we should be moved with compassion, making their suffering our own because, well, they are our brothers and sisters in Christ, sons and daughters of God.