Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

This Sunday’s first reading from the Book of Leviticus gives just a few of the horrible rules established by the Mosaic community to protect itself from leprosy. In the ancient times leprosy was believed to be deforming, incurable and contagious. Lepers were not accepted by their families and neighbors, and forced to live outside the villages. They were referred to as the Living Dead. To the ancients they were obviously cursed by God for some sin or other. As today’s reading says, they had to cover their mouths with one hand and call out “Unclean, unclean” as they walked[1].

However, today in the Gospel we heard that Jesus, moved with pity, stretched out his hand, touched the leper, and said to him, Be made clean. Jesus did not see the unclean leper, or his disease. He was not concerned with the strict prohibitions of Jewish society. Jesus did not see a leper at all; he saw a human soul in desperate need.

He stretched out his hand and touched him. He healed him with his touch.

Our Lord gave this power to his disciples. At the conclusion of the Gospel of Mark, Jesus proclaims the signs of the members of his people. Among these signs is this one: they will lay their hands on the sick and they will recover[2].

We possess the wonderful capacity to be instruments of the healing power of Christ. In the second reading for today saint Paul challenges us to imitate Christ. We are to be ministers of healing. We are to touch not just the physically sick, but all those whose lives are hurting and need healing in any way possible.

It is simply not Christian to ostracize anyone for any reason whatsoever. In the Christian society, even those with the most contagious diseases are cared for in a way that gives them dignity and love. Even those who have left Christian society are always welcomed back into the society when they seek to return. For example, even in the extremely rare cases of excommunication, such as when someone performs or assists in abortions, that person can always seek forgiveness and re-entry into the community.

And yet, many people throw children or relatives out of their lives. “You are no longer my son, my daughter,” a parent hisses. Is there ever a situation where there is no longer any possibility of healing, of mercy, of extending the hand of Christ to those he seek reconciliation? Not in Christianity.

When we allow ourselves to be so overcome by hurt and hatred that we refuse to extend the healing hand of the Lord to others, we take upon ourselves the sickness of the other person. Hatred kills. When we allow hatred to be part of our lives, we commit suicide. We do not have the right to hate anyone or any people and at the same time call ourselves Christian.

The Gospels often note that Jesus was moved with pity for the people. When he faced the troubled, the abandoned, the sick, when stirred by two blind men, when crossing paths with the widow of Nain[3], and today, when face to face with a leper, Jesus was moved not by disgust, not by antagonism, but by pity. Feeling pity and showing mercy are ideal Christian qualities of great minds and large hearts.

So, today we are called to follow Christ and allow our hearts to be enlarged by Christianity ■

[1] Sunday 15th February, 2009, 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Readings: Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46. I turn to you, Lord, in time of trouble, and you fill me with the joy of salvation—Ps 31(32):1-2, 5, 11. 1 Corinthians 10:31 – 11:1. Mark 1:40-45.
[2] Cfr Mc 16: 17.
[3] Lc 7: 11-17.
Ilustration: Illustrator of Petrus Comestor's 'Bible Historiale', manuscript "Den Haag, MMW, 10 B 23", France, 1372.

Y entonces uno se queda con la Iglesia, que me ofrece lo único que debe ofrecerme la Iglesia: el conocimiento de que ya estamos salvados –porque esa es la primera misión de la Iglesia, el anunciar la salvación gracias a Jesucristo- y el camino para alcanzar la alegría, pero sin exclusividades de buen pastor, a través de esa maravilla que es la confesión y los sacramentos. La Iglesia, sin partecitas.

laus deo virginique matris