6th Sunday in Ordinary Time - February 15, 2009
The first reading from Leviticus talks about Leprosy and prepares us for the Gospel reading. In Old Testament Society, the unfortunate leper must be removed from the community and live outside the camp, that is outside the city. Furthermore, he is supposed to give notice of his impurity by rending his garments and by shouting “Unclean, Unclean”.
The leper here is supposed to represent sinners as human failures. The leper symbolizes the man disgusted with his sins, but wanting to admit and then have these blemishes of the heart cured.
That’s why it says in the responsorial psalm, “Happy are those who transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Happy are those to whom the Lord imputes no iniquities and in whose spirit is no deceit.”
I acknowledged my sin to you and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, I will confess my transgressions to the Lord and you forgave the guilt of my sin.
In the Gospel, the Leper came to Jesus begging “If you choose, you can make me clean. Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out His hand, touched him and said, I will do it. Be cured…. Go and present yourself to the priest and offer for your cure what Moses prescribed.
The leper recognizes Jesus as someone who can make him whole, clean and completely free from leprosy. The leper comes and kneels before Jesus. In doing this he acknowledges Jesus as someone who is divine and powerful.
Jesus not only heals physical illnesses, but at the same time He frees us from sin.
Each one of us here has an area in their life that they wish to be made clean. Jesus the healer comes to us to free us from our leprosy of sin, our leprosy of unbelief, our leprosy of hate, our leprosy of sorrow.
Jesus who heals, and cures the leprosy, also performs great signs. He casts out demons, he raises the dead. These signs serve to show and confirm God’s power in the face of illness, in the face of sin.
Today’s second reading from 1Corinthians is the foundation on which we build our Christian life, once we repent and experience this healing from Jesus.
The eating and drinking refer to the problem some Christians had about food offered to pagan idols. St. Paul takes the position that Christians are free and can eat anything. Still, they must respect the conscience of each of the weaker members. Everything we do has an effect on others, whether inside or outside the Christian community.
We must not put stumbling blocks in the way of the conversion of others.
Whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. Give no offense to anyone, try to please everyone in everything you do, do not seek your own advantage so that others may be saved. In other words, St. Paul says, be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.
Each of us needs to look to Christ as our help our guide and our teacher.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church sums it up very beautifully with these words:
“The whole of Christ’s life was a continual teaching; His silences, His miracles, His gestures, His prayer, His love for people, His special affection for the little and the poor. (CCC561)
Seeing ourselves in the leper we can ask whether we are willing to let our spiritual leprosy, the ugly blotches of pride and self concern, die in our encounter with Christ the healer.
From the standpoint of Christ, we can ask if we are prepared to take the risk of touching and embracing the lepers around us – the unborn, the aged, the chronically and terminally ill, friends who have betrayed us, brothers and sisters we have never forgiven.
Christ never hesitated to reject society’s taboos and compassionately reach out to help others. With his touch and reassuring word, he cures and purifies.
To be imitators of Christ we are called to do the same – to reach out to those rejected by society – to touch with compassion those most in need.
To sum it up then, The leper in the old testament went to the priest to show him his disease, the pries declared him unclean. The leper in the Gospel recognizing Jesus as a holy man who could heal him, went before Him, knelt and ask for healing. Jesus healed him. So we too today recognize our uncleanliness, our sin, our hurt. We do this by reflecting on our lives and by examining ourselves. We ask Jesus to forgive us and to take away our hurt, our leprosy of sin. Jesus says I will do it. We then show ourselves to the priest in the confessional, our sins are forgiven.
After we are forgiven we are to go out and be imitators of Christ. To spread His compassionate healing touch to those around us most in need. In our families, in our church, in our community.
God Bless You
Deacon Bernie Ouellette