Homily for the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Be made clean (Mk 1:41)
Last Thursday, the Church celebrated the Memorial of our Lady of Lourdes. Since 1992, Pope John Paul II established that day as the World Day of the Sick. The celebration this year has a special significance. As the pandemic continues to impact the life of our communities, the office of worship of the Diocese, at the direction of our Bishop, composed the Prayers of the Faithful for the use in our parishes during this weekend. Through the intercession of our Lady of Lourdes, may God bring about healing for the sick and those whose lives have been disrupted by the pandemic!
Speaking of healing, there is a beautiful story in the Gospel on this 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time: Jesus reached out and healed a leper. To appreciate the gift of healing from the Lord, let us go to the first reading to understand what kind of suffering a leper endured.
The first reading is taken from chapter 13 of the Book of Leviticus. Moses handled the outbreak of a disease, namely leprosy, during the time that the Israelites sojourned toward the Promised Land. Moses not only gave instructions for those who were afflicted with the illness, but also to the members of the community in caring for one another as well. Perhaps an example of that is our Bishop giving the entire Diocese guidance in participation in the liturgy over the past couple of months. The passages which were selected as our first reading today are more directed toward the person who was suspected of having the illness. There were three sufferings of a leper: physical suffering, emotional suffering, and spiritual suffering. There was a physical suffering because leprosy caused “a scab or pustule or blotch” on the skin (Lv13:2). A person with a skin disease questioned: “Is not man’s life on earth drudgery?” (Jb7:1). There was an emotional suffering because the leper had to cry out in public: “Unclean, unclean!” (Lv. 13: 45). Well intended as it was (probably for the purpose of prevention) it caused an emotional anxiety for those already bearing a great physical pain. The great spiritual suffering came about because the leper must “dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp” (Lv. 13:46). This included the prohibition to enter the assembly to worship God. The ability to praise God is the very identity of the chosen people of God. So not allowing entrance into the assembly was a great suffering, if not an experience of a spiritual death.
The threefold suffering of the man in the Gospel today was changed when the leper encountered with the Lord. Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean” (Mk 1:41). Why then did Jesus instruct the man who was healed to “go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them” (Mk 1:44)? Simply, Jesus’ healing includes the restoration of the dignity as part of the chosen people of God: the ability to enter the assembly and praise God again. For the Lord, healing is holistic, body, mind, and soul!
Dear friends in the Lord, how appropriate it is for us to listen to this beautiful healing miracle in light of our Bishop just releasing a letter to all the faithful. In the past couple months, he wrote several letters which mostly centered on the issue of granting dispensation from the obligation of attending Sunday Mass. This time, the letter is centered on Lent as a good time to return to the Lord, and for many it is the return to public Mass. In the context of the Gospel today, I would like to add this to our Bishop’s invitation: In the past couple months, our community has suffered. Some have endured physical suffering, others are confronted with emotional distress, and there are those with spiritual malnourishment due to the pandemic. It is time for us as a Church to follow the example of the leper kneeling down begging Jesus, “If you wish, you can make me clean” (Mk 1:40).
In every Eucharistic celebration, experience from the depth of our heart the proclamation: “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those who are called to the supper of the Lamb.” With all of our faith, we respond: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” Yes, Lord Jesus, heal us like you healed the leper: body, mind, and soul. Amen.