With 20,000 faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square for the Angelus prayer Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI recounted the gospel episode of the leper who is healed, recalling that it is sin, and not physical illness, that separates humans from God.
The Holy Father explained that in his passion, Jesus became like a leper, “made unclean by our sins, separated from God. He would do all of this for love, for the purpose of obtaining for us reconciliation, forgiveness, and salvation."
Reflecting on the Gospel reading for this Sunday, Pope Benedict once again recommended to the faithful the practice of sacramental confession, expounding on the historical meaning of the words that Jesus spoke to the sick man: "Be made clean."
The Pontiff said: “According to the ancient Jewish law, leprosy was considered not only an illness, but the most serious form of 'impurity.'”
“It was the responsibility of the priests to diagnose it and declare the sick person unclean,” he added. The Holy Father stressed leprosy constituted “a sort of religious and civil death,” and its healing “a sort of resurrection.”
“In leprosy, it is possible to glimpse a symbol of sin, which is the true impurity of the heart that can separate us from God,” he continued.
“In effect, it is not the physical illness of leprosy, as stated by the old norms, that separates us from him, but sin, spiritual and moral evil.”
He then said, "If the sins that we commit are not confessed with humility and trust in the divine mercy, they can even reach the point of producing the death of the soul.”
The Holy Father explained: “Jesus, as Isaiah had prophesied, is the Servant of the Lord who bore our infirmities and endured our sufferings.”
“In the Sacrament of Penance, Christ crucified and risen, through his ministers, purifies us with his infinite mercy, restores us to communion with the heavenly Father and with our brothers, and gives us his love, his joy, and his peace,” he continued.
The Holy Father concluded by invoking the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, whom God preserved from sin, “so that she may help us evade sin and make us have frequent recourse to the Sacrament of Confession, the Sacrament of Penance.”
After the Angelus prayer, in his greetings to the English-speaking faithful, the Pontiff told them: “I encourage all of you to place your trust in Jesus, and to bring before him your hopes and your needs, for yourselves and for your loved ones. May the Lord grant your prayers and pour out upon all of you his abundant blessings.”