The Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
11 February 2018 At Saint Peter and Saint William Churches in Naples, FL
Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46 + Psalm 32 + First Corinthians 10:31-11, 1 + Mark 1, 40-45
We are all lepers. This story, as they always are, is about us. With no name, Mark casts this story with the focus on the leper, not the disciples or the crowd. We don’t know where this happened or when. This nameless man is anyone who needs what Jesus came to offer. The Jesus Mark puts before us is not just a man who has pity or feels sorry for someone sick. The word Mark chooses is powerful. It is compassionate. It’s as though he is saying that Jesus is moved to tears by the condition of this man. He responded man from the very depths of his being.
Jesus does the unthinkable. He touches that man. The fear of that impurity does not stop him. It happens again and again in the Gospel. Jesus touches those who seem beyond hope. It is almost as though Jesus wishes to trade places with this man, and in some ways, he does. In the end, Jesus, is the one who ends up alone, cast out, with a body broken, bruised, and bloody while that man goes free.
We are all lepers. We are all living like outcasts hiding from one another the truth of our lives. We even hide that truth from ourselves. The social consequences of sin are the last thing we want think about. In fact, we deny it by looking at sin as something private or personal. The evidence of that is the decline in our use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Why admit to someone else that we have sinned? After all, it’s just between me and God. No, it isn’t. We do not really admit our sinfulness, and we avoid the truth that sinful attitudes, like prejudice, racism, or sexism continue to isolate us from one another, avoiding those who are not like us, whose skin is different.
We are all lepers. The response of Jesus Christ is deeply emotional and compassionate. So much so, that he takes on the consequences of our sin in one last act of love. He accepted us and our sinfulness, and that acceptance is the answer to rejection and denial. In accepting ourselves as we truly are, we find the key to accepting others. The Jesus of this story is man of kindness, not a man of judgement. This is a man who reveals the mercy, the kindness, and the compassion of God to those willing to ask for what they need. It isn’t healing from a disease that we really need. It is acceptance, compassion, and reconciliation that we need, not just with God, but with each other. That’s why the man is sent to the priests, to complete his total healing and reconciliation with those who have looked upon him with judgement and cast him aside. That man become perhaps, the first apostle. He tells everyone what the Lord has done for him. It wasn’t just the healing, as I said, but the astonishing kindness and respect with which he had been treated.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if people began to run around and talk openly about how they had been treated by us Catholics: about the kindness, the compassion, and the respect with which we met them day after day? Jesus reached out a loving and healing hand towards a pariah. He challenges us his followers to reach out to those society rejects today: prisoners, addicts, refugees, migrants, or those sick with AIDS. It’s amazing what people can do for others. People can rekindle hope, bring back a joy for living, inspire plans for the future, restore self-respect and pride. They can mirror the infinite charity of God. Isn’t that what we want to do and who we want to be?