Homily for the 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46; 1 Corinthians 10:31—11:1; Mark 1:40-45
Dearly beloved, St. Mark in our gospel today presents for our reflection today another healing story. This time, a leper.
Our first reading, from Leviticus states clearly for us, the position of the Law concerning the disease leprosy:
"If someone has on his skin a scab or pustule or blotch
The one who bears the sore of leprosy …
As long as the sore is on him he shall declare himself unclean,
since he is in fact unclean.
He shall dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp."
The Mosaic Law is clear on the subject matter. In effect the leper is to be isolated from the community. It is unlike our current society where we have quarantine facilities for such purposes. The law sought to protect the healthy, that they may not contract the disease. The infected person however was left alone to fend for himself or herself. In biblical times, no figure was more pathetic than a leper. People were afraid to death that they would catch the disease. Unlike other sicknesses where you will be lucky to have the comfort of family and friends to support you, the situation of the leper was the direct opposite.
The leper’s life was a living hell. People hated the site of him and he/she hated the site of him/herself. A quotation from the psalm, 31 “those who know me are afraid of me. When they see me in the street, they run away …I am like something thrown away”.
Dearly Beloved, permit me to share this story of a young boy I will call Kofi who lived so many years ago. Kofi was 17 and an intelligent boy who lived with his parents. He was the last of 4 children. He had dreams of entering into medical school and becoming a doctor in his community. Then one day when he least expected it, he saw a growth on his skin. The parents knew what it was and tried to hide it. Just before they could, the local priest had word about it. Kofi was examined; it was a contagious disease. And by law, in the town where they lived, such persons were to be isolated to fend for themselves. Kofi’s dreams were cut short as a result.
I tell this story of Kofi to help us put a face to the leper we read about in scriptures. This leper, like Kofi, had a family, he had dreams, he felt the pain of isolation, he felt the hopelessness of being abandoned.
I can safely assume that whatever you may be going through, your pains, troubles, set-backs, whatever may be nothing compared to the leper’s situation in biblical times. Being forced out of the home, the very time you needed home. Abandoned and forced to live in isolation because you were sick. Can you imagine this? If the sickness does not kill you, such isolation will. And worst of all, that was in accordance with the law.
Yes in our own lives, at times big tragedy strikes; the loss of a loved one especially when that happens at a young age. You may be going through painful divorce situations. An accident that cripples a beloved child, a father who loses his job, a mother who turns alcoholic etc. These situations equally make our lives LIVING HELL. Do you find yourself in a situation that shakes every fiber of your being? What frustrates or stresses you?
You are the person Jesus is looking forward to touch. He is the same Yesterday, Today and Forever. The million dollar question is, are you able to approach Jesus and make this same prayer as the leper in the Gospel did? Lord if you want to, you can heal me. He saw God as one who sees the beginning from the end. His conviction as it were was that Jesus could and will help him in his situation the way and manner that falls perfectly in Jesus’ total plan for his life. He was open totally to whatever way Jesus was to approach his issue. But equally was certain that at the end of it all, whatever approach, it will be in his best interest. This was similar to the prayer Jesus said in Gethsemane: “not what I want but your will be done”. Lord if you want to …. I desperately need it, but what about you? If it is in my favor, if it will be for my good, if that will make me live in eternity. Lord if you want to. Unfortunately those are the moments we want God to act exactly the very way we want him and not as he wants. But this leper said, if you want to…
We are always better off when we allow God to work his divine plan into our lives. I know people who by allowing the will of God in their situation seem on the outside to be going through a lot, but deep within them, they are the most peaceful. Equally there are people who everyone envies, but deep within them are confused and sad because they’ve chosen their own ways.
Permit me to share with you paragraph 44 of the Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis says “Sometimes we are tempted to find excuses and complain, acting as if we could only be happy if a thousand conditions are met … I can say that the most beautiful and natural expressions of joy I have seen in my life were in the poor, and people who had little to hold onto.” (No 7) “I have seen that myself. The wholeness that you need, the comfort and peace of mind that you are looking for flows directly from the love of God. No physical situation can provide that. That is the irony of our lives as Christians.”
As you listen to this message, I pray that you have the courage to commit to God all your cares and worries. And also have the faith and hope in him to direct how things should be. Learn to make God control the events in your life and he will bring you to your destiny.