14Feb February 14, 2021 – Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

February 14, 2021
Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Leviticus (13:1-2, 44-46

Lepers had to live apart. Only if a priest pronounced a leper cured could he or she come back into normal life

The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying: “When a person has on the skin of his body a swelling or an eruption or a spot, and it turns into a leprous disease on the skin of his body, he shall be brought to Aaron the priest or to one of his sons the priests. he is leprous, he is unclean. The priest shall pronounce him unclean; the disease is on his head.

The person who has the leprous disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head be disheveled; and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, “Unclean, unclean.” He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease; he is unclean. He shall live alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.”

Responsorial: from Psalm 32

R./: I turn to you, Lord, in time of trouble, and you fill me with the joy of salvation

Blessed is he whose fault is taken away,
whose sin is covered.
Blessed the man to whom the Lord imputes not guilt,
in whose spirit there is no guile. (R./)

Then I acknowledged my sin to you,
my guilt I did not hide.
I said, I confess my faults to the Lord,
and you took away the guilt of my sin. (R./)

Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you just;
exult, all you upright of heart. (R./)

1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1

Instead of offending people, we must aim to please them if we can

My brethren, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offence to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please all men in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

Gospel: Mark 1:40-45

Jesus cures a leper by the healing touch of his hand

A leper came to Jesus begging him, and kneeling he said to him, “If you choose, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I do choose. Be made clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.

After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, saying to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.


Leprosy of the soul

By referring to leprosy in two of the three readings today , clearly the Church wants to direct our attention to something deeper than a purely physical disease. This is confirmed in the Responsorial Psalm, celebrating the joy of those who confess their sins before God, and experience his forgiveness. We might regard sin as a kind of leprosy of the soul. The ancient world used to combat physical leprosy by isolating the lepers, make them live outside the camp or town, and making them cry aloud, “Unclean, unclean!” as a warning to anyone approaching them. Also, whoever had the misfortune to even touch a leper would be regarded as unclean, and would be excluded from the community.

Perhaps there is some parallel to this on the spiritual plane. In the church of Jesus Christ, a sin committed by any member of this community is never a purely private affair, but a rejection in some degree of the standards the members have pledged to uphold. One of the most disturbing sayings of Christ in the gospels was his reference to Judas at the Last Supper: “Not one of them is lost, except the one who chose to be lost” (Jn 17:12).

There is a touching humility in the leper’s request to Jesus, “If you want to, you can cure me.” This appeal was met with compassion by Jesus, who, as St Mark comments,was moved with pity. He went further, stretching out his hand and touching the leper, so making himself unclean according to the law. Shortly afterwards Mark says that Jesus could no longer go openly into any town, but had to stay outside in country places. This compassion for suffering humanity resulted in more and more people coming to him, and even today the outstretched arms of God’s Son on the cross are a never-ending invitation to sinners to seek refuge with him. No longer was the leper, when cured, forced to live apart. After showing himself to the priest he was re-admitted as a member of the community.

What in the past was called confession is now called the sacrament of reconciliation. We should reflect that just as mortal sin is not an isolated act, but rather the culmination of a series of minor infidelities, so reconciliation is a gradual return to God over a period of time, with the reception of the sacrament as the high point, a time to celebrate our joy and gratitude in being at one with God again. This conversion, this newly-found commitment to the Lord is a thing which has to be constantly renewed. There is an enduring need for reconciliation, if we want to love God with our whole strength, and our neighbour as ourselves — the task Christ has set each of us when he said, “This do, and you will live.”


A Word of Thanks

Today’s story may be an early version of the story of the ten lepers. However the point is quite different. In this version the leper, far from not thanking Jesus, goes about shouting his gratitude to all who would listen. The passage is made more obscure by Mark’s literary device of the “Messianic Secret” his recurring claim that Jesus was trying to keep who he was a secret, which today’s scholars regard as just an odd, narrative form. Surely, however, Jesus did not want to be known as the kind of military messiah that so many people in his time wanted and expected.

The predicament of the leper in the time of Jesus was truly pathetic. Those unfortunates were debarred from all social life, both religious and commercial. We might try to explain their plight with examples from one’s local surroundings, although it is difficult to find such an all-embracing boycott, in modern cultures.

Jesus crosses social and religious boundaries in order to cure the leper. But before this could happen, the leper had the courage to break the Law of the Old Testament and approach Jesus. The outcast had such a high opinion of this holy man that he risked a rebuke from him for ignoring the normal prohibitions. At the heart of the encounter, compassion moves Jesus not only to respond with a word of encouragement, but also to reach out and touch him. Here Jesus shows us God’s attitude to human disability. He wishes to reach us in our weakness and restore us to fullness of life.

It is not enough that the outcast is restored to health. Without the permission of the priest he could not regain his place in society and would remain an outcast. Jesus wants to reestablish communion in a broken human family. Leprosy drove people away from others through the fear of the healthy that they would contract the dread disease Jesus wants to remove these barriers between human beings and set up a communion that is free and harmonious. We might apply this to our own community by instancing types of bias and prejudice that exist locally and invite people to ask the Lord to heal whatever keeps them at a distance from certain others. Continuing reconciliation is necessary as we go through life and receive various types of hurts, which could make us withdraw from others as the leper did. It requires the courage of the leper to bring these hurts and fears to the Lord for healing.

A different homily could be built on the second reading. Paul’s emphasis on thought for the other’s good is a reminder that none of us can ignore. He does not pander to the desires of others, but in a generous spirit thinks of how his actions might affect them. He wants to imitate the Lord, who loved his brethren even unto death. Paul wants to love them in their weakness and to work for their advantage. This type of attitude is unto the glory of God in ordinary things, such as eating and drinking. It resembles the practical advice given by Matthew in 18:10 that no one can ignore anyone else, even the least.


Healing the isolated

We all need to connect with others, to be in communion with them. We don’t like to feel isolated or cut off from family, friends, or the wider community. One of the most challenging aspects of sickness or disability can be the isolation that it brings. When we are ill or our body grows weak we cannot take the same initiative we used to take to connect with others. People can become housebound because of their physical condition; the things they used to do to meet up with others are no longer possible. Certain forms of illness can be more isolating than others. The most isolating form of illness in the time of Jesus was leprosy. For hygienic reasons, lepers had to live apart, ‘outside the camp’, in the words of today’s first reading. Lepers were only allowed to have each other for company. They lived apart from their family, their friends and the community to which they belonged.

The leper in today’s gospel seemed determined to break out of his isolation. He did something that was unconventional and daring in approaching Jesus and pleading on with him, ‘If you want to, you can cure me.’ His desperation to be healed of an illness that kept him totally isolated drove him to do something that was against the Jewish Law at the time. In response to the leper’s daring approach, Jesus did something just as unconventional. He reached out his hand and touched the leper. If it was forbidden for a leper to approach the healthy, it was certainly forbidden for a healthy person to touch a leper. It seems that the leper’s desire to be freed from his isolation was met by an equally strong desire on the part of Jesus to deliver the leper from his isolation. The gospels portray Jesus as someone who worked to deliver people from their isolation, whether it is an isolation imposed by illness, as in the case of the leper, or by their lifestyle, as in the case of someone like Zacchaeus.

Both Jesus and of the leper have something to say to us about steps we can take to connect with people, to break out of our isolation, even when the odds seem to be stacked against us. We can all be tempted from time to time to retreat into our shell, whether it is because of our health or some disability or some past experience that has drained us of life. It is at such times that we need something of the initiative and daring energy of the leper. There can come a time when, like the leper, we need to take our courage in our own hands and, against the conventional expectation, to head out in some bold direction. It was desperation that drove the leper to seek out Jesus. Sometimes for us too, it can be our desperation that finally gets us going, gets us to connect with that person who matters to us and to whom we matter more than we realize or gets us to link up with some gathering or some group that has the potential to do us good or maybe even to transform our lives. Sometimes I can be amazed at the initiatives that some people take to connect with others, people who are much less healthier than I am and are much less physically able. I come across it all the time in the parish — older people who have mastered the internet and have come completely at home with Skype; younger people who in spite of some serious disability have found the means to live a very full life that is marked by the service of others. The man in today’s gospel who approaches Jesus could well be the patron saint of all those who strive to connect with others against all the odds.

Unlike the leper, Jesus was perfectly healthy, but he had something of the same desire and energy to connect with others. When approached by the leper, he could have turned away, as most people would have done. Instead, Jesus stood his ground and engaged with the leper, reached out to him not only by word but by action. He not only spoke to him, but he touched him. Jesus often healed people by means of his word alone; but this man who had suffered from extreme isolation really needed to be touched.Jesus did more than was asked of him; he took an initiative as daring as the leper’s move towards him. He went as far as any human being could go to deliver this man from his isolation. What the Lord did for the leper he wishes to continue doing through each one of us in our own day. There are many isolated and lonely people among us. The scope is there for all of us to take the kind of step that Jesus took towards the leper. Again, I can see examples of that in the parish all the time — people who look in on neighbours and make sure that they are all right and have what they need. There are always people among us waiting to be touched by our compassionate presence. When they are, they can experience the same kind of transformation as the leper did in today’s gospel.


9 Responses

  1. Kevin Walters

    It could be said that the lepers represent those outcasts who have lost their home (Church) and are ensnared in evil situations and need spiritual help now, in the present moment.

    In the past and probably so today many Catholics move away from the Church as they commence their working life, never having truly committed themselves to the faith, they drift along. The Church is universal, many Baptised Catholics (Cultural) know little of their religion, but a process/path has commenced that encompasses Hope as Baptism confers on the child, led by the Holy Spirit, an acknowledgeable recognition/stirring of given grace (Calling), within their own heart during their lifetime, no matter how broken that life may be.

    I believe this stirring of the heart often occurs in life’s confounding moments of significance as in death/birth/loss etc. But sadly, with no way back this stirring (Hope) is stifled almost immediately, as they are often entangled within a sinful situation (Mortal Sin).

    Our life circumstances tend to influence our thinking and behaviour, in my era many poorly educated people left school at a very young age, with the basic rudiments of Christianity, many without making a true commitment to Jesus Christ. I remember one instance when some of the boys in my class, who came from a Children’s Home were about to be Confirmed, they were told that “if you are not Confirmed you will have to leave the Home”, at thirteen years of age, possible for some the only home they had known. Then as school finished for them at fifteen years of age they would have to go out into the real world, often with no family connections whatsoever.

    Many cultural Catholics are poorly educated, but a man/woman can have a calling to the faith at any time in their life, in the early Church many converted to Christianity as adults. Indoctrinated uneducated children leaving school at fifteen were comparable to lambs without a Shepherd. If mistakes have been made Divine Mercy (an Image of Broken Man) demands a way back for the indoctrinated, as in an open door, even if they are entangled in an evil situation, (Mortal Sin) to lay damnation on these lambs (Now older) is a travesty of justice.

    The Church has tried to remedy the situation for some with Amoris Laetitia, which is flawed as it dismisses Christ’s commandment of the indissolubility of marriage, whereas it should be vigorously defended and reinforced. While understanding that God’s Divine Mercy cannot be codified. As

    “a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise”

    What I am proposing gives the Church the means to call all of her Children (Cultural Catholics, seen by some as the spiritual undeserving poor) no matter what their present state (Entangled in sinful situations). Many of whom never truly committed themselves to the faith. To embrace publicly in humility their brokenness, in the present moment, before God and the faithful. If this act of humility is sincere (I believe for many it would be so) spiritual growth (Virtue/Grace) will accrue.

    I have read that the final words of the Code of Canon Law are these:
    “the salvation of souls, which must always be the supreme law in the Church, is to be kept before one’s eyes” (Can. 1752)

    I have been advocating that The True Divine Mercy Image is an Image of Broken Man, given by our Lord to the Church and has within itself, the capacity to draw into communion, in humility, all those outcasts who our Saviour came to save.

    We are not here to judge others rather we should encourage them, as God’s Divine Mercy is greater than any sin.

    Perhaps some may consider continuing this theme in my post given via the link
    http://www.catholicethos.net/catholic-teaching-assault-amoris-laetitia/#comment-192

    kevin your brother
    In Christ

  2. Paddy Ferry

    Going back a week, Kevin to today/yesterday, the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, we heard how Jesus cured Peter’s mother-in-law at Capernaum.

    I visited Capernaum twice in 1981 and 1984 and we saw the excavations of the site which had been regarded for centuries as the site of the home of Peter’s mother-in-law where Jesus performed the miracle.

    Today at Mass in Rivermount Parish in Finglas, Fr. Paddy shared with us lovely images of that site which now has a beautiful church sitting over the site and with a glass floor to let you see the excavated remains of the ancient house.

    I just thought I would share that with you, Kevin.

    God bless you.

    Paddy.

  3. Joe O'Leary

    “Leper” is one of those nasty, stigmatizing words that have perhaps caused more damage to human beings than the disease itself. The Japanese translation of the Bible uses the expression “person suffering from a skin disease” instead (“Hansen’s disease” would be an impossible anachronism). In reading the Bible we often have to negotiate language, ideas, and actions that reflect what we now see as the blindness of the past. Christ gave his Church the authority to overturn these past attitudes, for instance in changing its stance on capital punishment. “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Mt 16:19).

    This willingness of grow and change is not a supine surrender to political correctness, but reflects the example of Jesus. One of his first miracles shows him as a smasher of taboos.’Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I do choose. Be made clean!”’ The famous textual variant that has “moved by anger” instead of “moved by pity” is one that makes a lot of sense. Jesus is angry at the social exclusion that has made the man’s life so miserable, and also perhaps at the influence of demonic powers. Fear for our own safety prompts us to go along with social mentalities of exclusion, and this dynamic comes into play as well in the Covid-19 situation.

    Does Jesus not act here with divine authority, his outstretched hand recalling the mighty hand and outstretched arm of God liberating his people (Deut 4:34; 5:15; 7:19; 11:2; 26:8; 1 Kgs 8:42; Jer 32:21; Ezek 20:33, 34; Ps 136:12; Acts 4:30). The gesture goes back to the Egyptian Pharaohs.

    Christians receive from Jesus the gift of healing, exerted by Peter in Acts 3 when he raises up a lame man. I suspect that it is a buried gift that many people never deploy because they do not know they have it, while various healing religions and cults exercise it freely in response to their adherents’ needs.

  4. Kevin Walters

    Paddy Ferry @2
    Thank you, Paddy, for sharing this experience I found some pictures for myself and perhaps others who may see our comments see the link

    https://www.israeltourismconsultants.com/Travel/Travel-Guide/Israel/Regions/Galilee/st-peter-s-church-capernaum

    God Bless you also Paddy

    kevin your brother
    In Christ

  5. Kevin Walters

    Joe O’Leary @3

    Jesus tells us that we can do anything if we truly believe (trust) and I accept this in my heart as a reality. If anyone said to me, “where are your miracles”?

    Jesus said you would cure the sick etc. “I see none of this” amongst you Christians. I would have to bow my head and say ‘I do not trust enough’.

    But I can say with confidence that if we let go of our own desires (expectations) and trust, we will be aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit within us. The stormy sea of life will cease and we will be confident of a positive outcome to our prayer.

    kevin your brother
    In Christ

  6. Paddy Ferry

    Kevin@4, thank you for that link, Kevin. It has all changed since
    I was in Capernaum.

  7. Padraig McCarthy

    Leviticus: “The person who has the leprous disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head be dishevelled; and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, “Unclean, unclean.” He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease; he is unclean. He shall live alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.”

    Leprosy as described in the Bible is not the same disease we know today as Hansen’s Disease (leprosy). But any sickness that was considered infectious was a danger to the community for health reasons. And it was taken to be a sign of being ritually unclean. The person with the disease suffered also in being excluded from community life and from the synagogue. A quarantine, not just for two weeks or forty days.

    In Mark 1, the man should never have approached Jesus. And yet Jesus was “moved with pity” as in the translation above; “feeling sorry for him” (Lectionary). These come nowhere near the strength of meaning of the Greek word “SPLAGCHNISTHEIS” in Mark – he was moved to the depths of his being, and was moved to do what was shocking: he TOUCHED him! Picture anyone who saw it recoiling in horror.

    Today we have Covid-19 which separates us from the people we would normally touch and hug. So many parents whose children and grandchildren stand outside the door as they deliver groceries. So many people unable to visit those who are sick, even dying, and unable to show our final respects as we normally would at the funeral. We can identify to some extent with the man in the gospel. We long for human touch. But we have good reason to keep safe distance in this pandemic, out of love. St Valentine’s Day or not, love can lead us to do what would otherwise seem impossible, and even wrong.

    The result for Jesus is that he now finds himself in the position of the leper: he could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the places where nobody lived. The remarkable experience for the first Christians is that for followers of Jesus, nobody, whatever their status in society, is untouchable. “Give no offence to Jews or Greeks, or to the assembly (church) of God ”, as Paul writes. As we slowly edge towards a life free from coronavirus, may we learn to be a people ready to reach out to all without exception, to welcome the excluded, the forgotten, the unknown of our world, those the world treats as unclean. Knowing that we are those whom Jesus has touched, let us proclaim him in all we do.

  8. Thara Benedicta

    Key Message:
    Whatever we do, we’ll do for the glory of God!!

    Homily:

    Takeaway from first reading and second readings:

    In our first reading, we see that God gives clear instructions about the process a person needs to do undergo when identified with leprosy and getting cured from the same. We see that God likes to be part of our daily life. He wants to be involved in our daily trivial tasks too.

    In the second reading, Paul says that we should do everything for the glory of God. This includes our every action in our daily life, inclusive of the ones that are not spiritual ones too. It may be doing our household chores, official work, reading, washing, driving, etc. everything should be done for the glory of God. When we have a mindset that we are doing everything for the glory of God, our life will become a sweet offering in the eyes of our God.

    Takeaway from Gospel reading:

    Jesus touched and cured the leper. Jesus did not give long sermons about God here but He glorified God by curing the leper. Whatever Jesus did was always glorifying God.

    We can communicate with God while we are cleaning the house as well as on bended knee. God wants us to communicate with Him through the daily chores of the day. We can tell Him all our wants, all our desires throughout the day. If you notice, you will be talking with yourself always. In the same way we can talk with God also. God will be excited to listen to your words, even though no one else will.

    Actually He created mankind to have a close communion with Him.

    Tips to glorify our God through our life :

    1. One way of giving glory to our God is by not giving up. Make a decision to take your plans, dreams till the finish. No matter how much it takes or how long it takes, never give up. Our Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith. Put your trust in the Lord to take it to the finish. Take your plans to the finishing line not for your rewards but for glorifying God!!

    2. We all have assignments from God. Our joy will be found in fulfilling our assignment from God. Your current assignment may be raising up two children or a preaching ministry or teaching any skill to people. If we choose some other assignment because the world glorifies this assignment, instead of caring if God admires it or not, then we will not have peace.

    3. Have we read any where in the Bible that angels are complaining to complete the task assigned by God? They are always excited to do any job allocated by God. We too should not complain and work. Our assignments are all from God and He provides us the grace to do the most difficult task too. He never asks us to do something without providing us the grace to do.

    4. If we are addicted to habits like complaining, smoking, back-biting, we should pursue some new things to learn or to do like singing, painting, etc. and set a goal. You Can write songs for the Lord, paint pictures depicting the love of God and so on… Jesus will be pleased to provide His support in your undertakings.

    5. We should ensure that what we do is pleasing to God. If it’s pleasing to God, then we should not worry about what others think about us.

    6. Forgiving our enemies is a tough task but with it comes lot of blessings. It’s the Christian way of living.

    7. Being peaceful amidst tribulations is the best way to glorify to God. The world around you will wonder how, in this situation too, you are peaceful. ‘The peace that surpasses all understanding comes only from God.’ Your child may not be in the right path or you may not have a good job or you may have a special child… Knowing that God is our loving Father and resting internally by trusting in Him is the best way to glorify God.

    8. We can think good for everyone and wish good things happen for every one. This is the way how God thinks. Your good wishes for everyone will impress God!!!

    9. As well as saying ‘Thank you’, to our children, we can bless them – ‘God bless you’. We will be blessing them automatically without any effort!!!

    We can glorify God just by talking with Him all day!!!

  9. Padraig McCarthy

    Leviticus: “he shall cover his upper lip.”
    Protect others from his breath – wear a face mask!

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