[Reflection on The Word] Homily for the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46/ Psalm 32/ 1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1/ Mark 1: 40-45
Theme: The Leper’s Prayer
The Liturgy of today is a reminder that we must learn to identify with the people we are called to minister to. We must be kind, for everyone we meet is fighting a hard battle. Jesus and Paul are such models for our imitation.
In the first reading, the book of Leviticus brings to sharp focus the fact that to be leprous is to be an outcast. What is interesting is the fact that the Priest of God is the one to declare the leper as an outcast.
This presupposes that the leprous man was a religious outcast. This religious tradition was held unto by the Jewish and their authorities until the time of Jesus. What could be more humiliating than to be a religious outcast and not a social outcast; to think that the Church which is supposed to be a place of solace turns out to be a place of oppression, unhospitable and discrimination of all kinds.
We have turned people into religious outcasts by our way of relationships. The way we look down on people, talk to them, and even shake them during the sign of peace shows that they are not humans. In our time, tribal sentiments, status, ethnocentrism to mention but few have all contributed to make people outcast in various forms in our Parish communities. Discrimination in its different forms in our day is more than having leprosy in Jesus’ day. It stinks especially because it is happening among God’s people.
When you read the instruction for leprosy described in the first reading, you can see how the disease is a picture of sin. Like sin, leprosy is deeper than the skin (Lev. 13:3); it spreads (Lev. 13:5-8); it isolates and defiles and it renders things fit only for the fire. Anyone who has never trusted the Lord is spiritually in worse shape than this man was physically. Jesus had compassion on the man and healed him. He did it with His touch and with His word. No doubt this was the first loving touch this leper had felt in a long time.
The gospel reading presents Jesus as the protagonist who brings in a new age, an age in which everybody matters but the Jewish religious authorities remained adamant to change. As a demonstration of the fact that lepers were human beings and needed care and love, Jesus encountered a leprous man and healed him in order to give an expression to this new age that he has inaugurated.
It was not as if the leprous man doubted the power of Jesus to heal. As a leper, he could not imagine coming close to Jesus because he was an outcast. How he got close to Jesus only God Knows. Perhaps Jesus went out in search of them whom society has discriminated against. Thus, he was on his knees when he asked Jesus the question “If you choose, you can make me clean” (Mark 1:40). The question was one of self- pity; a call for sympathy. No wonder Jesus was moved with pity and granted him his request.
When the man was healed, Jesus warned him sternly never to tell anyone except the Priest. He did the very opposite. His witness to Jesus was genuine and from a heart of gratitude. He was told not to tell anybody and he told everybody. We have been commissioned to proclaim the good news of our liberation and salvation in Jesus Christ yet, we have kept quiet.
Jesus warned the cured leper not to tell anybody because he wanted to avoid any show of popularity which may derail his ministry. He teaches us to avoid drawing attention to ourselves and give all the glory to God when we attain success in our ministry. He warns against cheap popularity.
Paul in the second reading warns us against cheap popularity namely that whatever we do must be done to the greater glory of God. Like Jesus, Paul made himself all things for all men so that he might save some. Sometimes as Christians, there is the temptation to think that Jesus is able to do all he does because he is God.
St. Paul is, therefore, throwing a challenge to us all to imitate him as he imitates Jesus. He is an example of a man who is truly converted and he sees how precious the life of everybody is to Jesus.
The thought of the goodness and power of God should give us confidence in prayer. If we expect our petition to be answered, we must go to prayer convinced that God will hear us. St. James warns us about a lack of trust in prayer: “If any of you is without wisdom, let him ask it from God who gives generously and ungrudgingly to all and it will be given him.
Yet he must ask in faith, never doubting, for the doubter is like the surf tossed and driven by the wind. A man of this sort, devious and erratic in all that he does, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord” (James 1:5-7).
In sum, Jesus is noted to be the friend of outcasts. To bring help to outcasts, Jesus himself had to become an outcast and stay outside in places where nobody lived. He assures us that there is no hopeless situation at all in our daily encounter with him. What is the leprosy in your life that is hindering your encounter with the Lord? Remember the leper’s prayer “If you choose you can make me clean.” Peace.
Source: Rev. Fr. Aaron Agorsor
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