Francis recalled how the first to dirty himself was Jesus who--without shying away--approached the excluded of his time. In Jesus getting his hands dirty, touching and healing lepers, Francis stressed, we are taught that we must have this closeness in the Church.
The Pontiff reflected on today's Gospel in which the leper prostrates himself before the Lord and says, "Lord, if you want, you can make me clean," and Jesus touches and heals him. Francis noted how the miracle was observed by the doctors of law who considered the leper 'impure.' Leprosy, he explained, was a life sentence and healing a leper was considered as difficult as raising someone from the dead.
"How many people were watching from afar and did not understand nor care," Francis said. Some, he continued, watched with bad hearts, ready to put Jesus to the test, to criticize, and to condemn him. Others, he noted, watched from a distance because they lacked courage. Jesus doing this and reaching out to the marginalized epitomizes Christian proximity.
"So many times I think how it is--I would not say impossible--but very difficult to do good without getting your hands dirty," Francis said. "And Jesus is soiled."
Jesus never marginalizes anyone, but rather includes in His life the excluded and demonstrates the fundamental value of the word 'proximity.' Without proximity, the Pope stressed, one cannot make peace or do good.
"This is the mystery of Jesus [who] takes upon himself our dirt, our impurities," Francis said, recalling how St. Paul described how Jesus emptied himself for us.
"Proximity," the Pope said, calls for an examination of conscience on behalf of "the Church, parishes, communities, consecrated persons, the bishops, priests, everyone."
Concluding his homily, Pope Francis called on the faithful to ask themselves. "Do I have the spirit, the strength and the courage to touch the marginalized?"