Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)

Lev 13:1-2, 44-46; 1Cor 10:3-11:1; Mk 1:40-45

OTHER HOMILY SOURCES:

Homily for 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time on the Gospel

By Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp

Reaching Out to the Leper

Leviticus 13:1-2, 45-46

1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1

Mark 1:40-45

Martin was a young soldier in the Roman army. Elegantly dressed, he was mounted on his horse one day when he was accosted by a leper begging for alms. The sight and the stench of rotting flesh was so repulsive to the sensitivities of young Martin that his first instincts were to ride off on his horse. But something inside him made his walk up to the beggar. Since all he had was his military coat, he cut it in two and gave half to the leper while he wrapped himself with the other half. It was a very cold winter day. That night in his dream he saw Christ clothed in a half coat saying to the angels around his throne, “Martin has clothed me with his garment.” This event was the turning point in the life of him who was to become St Martin of Tours.

The natural revulsion of Martin before leprosy is nothing compared with the ancient Hebrew attitude to leprosy. To the Hebrews leprosy was not only a most dreaded natural disease, it was also popularly seen as divine chastisement. The story of Miriam, sister of Moses, who was struck with leprosy as a result of her misconduct (Numbers 12) as well as that of Job who was afflicted with a leprosy-like skin disease reinforced their view of leprosy as divine punishment for sin. In the first reading (Leviticus 13) the dreadful practice of ostracising lepers is reported as God’s will: “The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying ….”

But the gospel paints a different picture. Was leprosy indeed divine chastisement? Was the dehumanizing treatment meted out to lepers as described in Leviticus God’s will? If indeed these things were God’s will, then there is no way Jesus, God’s Anointed, would want to heal a leper. If, on the other hand, leprosy is an unfortunate disease like any other, then there is a possibility that Jesus who had earlier healed many sick people would also heal a leper. The leper in the gospel decides to find out the truth once and for all. Ignoring the law that requires him to keep away from people, he gets close to Jesus and kneels before him. Instead of shouting “Unclean! Unclean!”he says to him, “If it is your will you can make me clean” (Mark 1:40). Jesus’ reply, “It is my will. Be made clean!”(verse 41) did two things. First, it restored the leprosy patient to health. Secondly it proved to him and to all that leprosy was not a divine chastisement after all but a disease like any other disease that prevents people from being fully alive as God wants all people to be.

According to ancient Hebrew belief, physical contact with lepers rendered a person unclean. Holy people in particular were expected to keep a safe distance from lepers. Against this background the gesture of Jesus who stretches out his hand and physically touches the leper becomes unthinkable. Has he no fear of being defiled? What is going on here? Jesus is challenging and redefining the traditional views of holiness and unholiness. Jesus is challenging traditional superstitions and prejudices that certain people are impure by the conditions of their health, social status or birth. An Indian friend told me that in his part of the country people of a higher caste would not sit together in church with those of a lower caste, the so-called untouchables. By reaching out and touching the leper and thereby making him pure again, Jesus is teaching us, his followers, to reach out and embrace the dehumanized and the outcasts among us. A deed of solidarity with the dehumanized does not dehumanize the doer, rather it restores full humanity to the dehumanized.

Pope John Paul II has declared February 11, feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, as the World Day of the Sick. Leprosy, thank God, has become a curable disease. Yet the tendency to see some diseases as divine punishment and to ostracise those who suffer from them is still with us. Is this not how many of us still see people with HIV-AIDS? Have you not heard tele-evangelists who teach that AIDS is divine punishment for sin? Jesus challenges us today to abandon such dehumanizing beliefs and reach out in solidarity with these modern-day lepers among us, just as he himself did in his own days.

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Homily for 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time on the Epistle

By Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp

 The Christian Standard of Right and Wrong

Leviticus 13:1-2, 45-46

1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1

Mark 1:40-45

The moral behaviour of a person is regulated by that person’s standard of what is right or wrong. For the traditional Jew right and wrong is determined by the Law. What the Law permits is right and what the Law forbids is wrong. In popular American and the globalized Western culture, right and wrong is determined by how one feels about a course of action. As Ernest Hemingway said, “What is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after.” Traditional Jewish morality tends to legalism, that is, placing the letter of the law before flesh-and-blood human needs. Popular Western morality, on the other hand, leads to moral subjectivism or relativism in which the rightness or wrongness of an action is said to depend on how the individual feels about it. The Christian in the modern world is caught between these conflicting systems of morality.

Today, in the 2nd reading from 1st Corinthians, Paul gives us an alternative standard of morality based specifically on the teachings of Christ. According to Paul, that an action is right or wrong depends on whether or not it contributes to the spiritual welfare of others. In adopting this standard of morality, Paul rejects both traditional Jewish legalism and popular Western individualism.

Paul rejects traditional Jewish moral legalism by reaffirming the freedom of the children of God in Christ with regard to the Jewish Law. For Christians “All things are lawful but not all things are beneficial. All things are lawful but not all things build up” (1 Corinthians 10:24). He also rejects popular Western relativism by reaffirming the overriding Christian duty of love of neighbour, which implies that we put the interest of others before our own. “Do not seek your own advantage, but that of the other” (verse 24). The freedom of the children of God and the Christian duty of love of neighbour are the two sides of the one coin that Paul sees as the standard of Christian morality. To illustrate how this principle works in practice Paul takes up the case of whether or not a Christian should eat meat offered to idols.

To resolve the case, Paul first appeals to the fundamental Christian belief that there is only one God and the world and all it contains belongs to Him. As a result we are free from ritual observances regarding beliefs in other gods, which we know to be nothing but superstitions. We can, therefore, eat meat offered to idols since there are no deities to whom it is offered other than the one God that we believe in. Following Christian doctrine, therefore, Christians could eat meat offered to idols.

Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience, 26 for “the earth and its fullness are the Lord’s.” 27 If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience (1 Corinthians 10:25-27).

That Christians are free to eat meat offered to idols, however, is only one side of the coin. The other side of the coin is the practical consideration of the effects of the exercise of our freedom on others. We are free to eat, yes, but if our eating will scandalise a weak brother or sister and lead them astray, then we should not eat. We refrain from eating not because it is wrong or sinful but out of consideration for our less-informed neighbour.

But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, out of consideration for the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience– 29 I mean the other’s conscience, not your own (1 Corinthians 10:28-29).

Thus, in practice, love of neighbour overrides our knowledge that we are free to eat meat offered to idols.

Paul here gives us a new absolute standard of morality, which the Society of Jesus has adopted as its motto: Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam (AMDG) = To the Greater Glory of God.So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God” (verse 31). Whatever course of action enhances the glory of God is to be preferred to an action that does not give God the glory in our lives, in the lives of our neighbour, in the community and in our world. This is the Christian standard of right and wrong that Paul teaches us today. We pray God to give us the wisdom to follow this rule of life rather than traditional legalism or the moral relativism that dominates contemporary popular culture.

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6th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

 Homily # 1

Mark 1: 40-45

Reach Out and Touch Someone in Need

My wife and I began supporting a family in Peru about five years ago. We initially did this by sending $25 per month to their parish where the staff purchases food and necessities and delivers a package to their house once per month. A package supplies about half of the needs for Armandina, Segundo, and their daughter, Mileny, who live on less than $1 per day.

As time went by, I talked to missionaries who came back from Peru and saw how profoundly they had been affected by their experience. It took me a while to get the guts to go myself. When first I went three years ago, I helped deliver packages to houses of the poor and hugged them as they thanked us for what we were doing. In evenings, I would dance with them at fiestas as we celebrated life. During Mass each evening, I would sit with my adopted family as we hung on to each other while loving God and each other.

Reaching out and touching the poor transforms me. I become someone I was not before doing so. And I find it very difficult to explain what happens. I find some help from what God said to the prophet Ezekiel: “I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts.”

In today’s gospel, Jesus healed a man with leprosy. This is surprising because anyone with leprosy was to stay afar and cry out “unclean” when anyone who was “clean” drew near.  Somehow, the man got close to Jesus and then begged him to make him clean so that he could return to normal society.

If a leper touched an unclean person, he or she would become unclean and would also have to live apart from normal society. But, we hear that Jesus was “moved with pity” and touched him and made him clean.

Jesus set a model for us. Christians are to have pity on others; we are to have compassion. What does that mean? It is summarized in this particular gospel passage as reaching out to them and touching them. This seems to go beyond traditional charity of sending money to someone else, who might do the actual touching. Don’t get me wrong, charity is necessary, often to keep people alive. But, Jesus, as he often does, is ratcheting things up a notch in trying to “give us a new heart.”

So, who is the unclean for us? Whom don’t we want to touch? Or, perhaps, whom don’t we touch because we never tried or never even thought about it? Who is not a part of our normal groupings? They are often invisible. We probably won’t find them in our subdivision or down the road from our acreage. Where are these people who are separated from us? We probably won’t find them here in church, nor will we find them in line with us at our grocery store or at the mall.

It takes initiative and creativity to reach the needy. Once we identify who they are, we need the courage to be Christian and reach out and touch them as Jesus did.

At Saint Monica, the Saint Vincent de Paul Society serves the needy within our parish boundaries in various ways through visits to their homes. Some of our parishioners bring monthly necessities to our adopted family from Somalia. A few of our Communion Ministers visit and take Communion to the homebound, who can no longer join us at Mass. There are organizations in Edmond that provide hot breakfast and a sack lunch to anyone and deliver affordable and nutritional hot meals to the elderly and disabled.

If we want to venture further out of our comfort zone, there is Zip Code 73114 just south of Memorial Road. It is ranked second in family poverty in Oklahoma City. A not-for-profit organization serves this area and is always in need of someone to assist them in working with the poor.

We have heard Fr. Tim say that one in six children in Oklahoma live in poverty. These children have done nothing to get themselves into this predicament. We can help these children by volunteering at various nearby organizations, which coordinate efforts for people facing hard times in the Edmond community; assisting Oklahoma foster children; helping recruit and support foster-care families; and providing practical assistance to pregnant women to choose life for their unborn babies. We can also be like Christ and touch people with special needs, such as the developmentally challenged who participate in Special Olympics.

Today we would say that all of this is stewardship of time because time is all that is required for us to physically touch those in need. When we do, we may see the face of Christ in the needy and find that we have been given a new and natural heart.


Homily # 2

Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46
1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1
Mark 1:40-45

The law is very specific; “If someone has on his skin a blotch which appears to be the sore of leprosy, he shall be declared unclean…and shall dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp.” 

This must have been an absolute nightmare, to live on the fringe of the community, to be able to watch the goings on of normal life and yet be forbidden to make any kind of overt contact with family or friends.  The logical side of this is that society has a right to protect it self, thus quarantine is an appropriate solution.

Being alone though, in complete isolation, to be a pariah would be so devastating.  I’ve tried to imagine living in that situation, completely isolated, permanently shunned, and crying aloud ‘unclean…unclean’ when an unsuspecting person would venture too close. It must have been an overwhelming sense of hopelessness.

What an interesting contrast then to hear the words of the gospel. A leper came to Jesus…knelt before him and offered a simple prayer in faith… “If you wish, you can make me clean.”  Moved with compassion…Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him and said, “I do will it.  Be made clean.”  And so it happened, he was healed.

I truly enjoy miracle stories from scripture.  I find myself captured by the events that would compel someone like the leprous person to find the courage to approach Jesus and beg for mercy.  This is especially so given the strict nature of the law.  Some could argue the point, this person has nothing to lose…he is already condemned.  Yet even in his adversity, fully knowing the consequences of his disease he experienced hope and prayed

The moment of healing is so beautifully simple and yet it is not simplistic. When we hear these words today it is so easy to dismiss this gospel as a nice story that relates to Jesus as a miracle worker.

If we come to that conclusion I believe we miss the significance of the mystery of God’s presence at work in Jesus’ words and works.  This gospel reaches beyond the time of its telling and if we open our hearts it will capture every one of us in a simple act of reconciliation and faith.

If you wish you can make me clean…

They are powerful words that come to us as a prayer of hope and reconciliation.  I thought of this when I read an email a friend sent me a couple of weeks ago.  It was a short story about a woman confiding to her therapist:  She said, “My husband and I can’t say two words to each other without getting into an argument.  The second he comes in the door we are at each other’s throats.  Deep down, I know the love’s still there but it seems hopelessly buried.”

The therapist listened intently, then reached into his drawer, and pulled out a bottle and handed it to her.  “This is special water, holy water from a sacred spring in India,” the therapist explained.  “For the next week, whenever your husband’s about to enter the room, take two tablespoons, but don’t swallow right away…take a moment and look into his eyes.  After a couple of seconds, swallow it.  You should notice an improvement in your interaction right away.”

She went home and anxiously waited for him to come home.  When he walked in; she forgot the tablespoon and just took a swig of the blessed water and silently held his gaze.  He gave her a suspicious look, then grinned curiously.  After a bit she swallowed the water and asked how his day went.  Amazingly, they didn’t argue.  In fact, they had one of the warmest and loving conversations they had had in recent memory.  As each night passed she performed the same ritual…suddenly as if a veil was lifted, she saw him in a whole new light; she saw him as if it were the first time again…the man she fell in love with.

The following week the woman returned to her therapist, proclaiming the treatment had healed her marriage and that she needed more of this miraculous water…and fast.

He smiled and revealed that the potent elixir was nothing but store-bought Mountain Spring water.  (from Connections, February 2006)

Obviously, it was not the “magical” water that reconnects these two spouses.  Rather it is the woman’s desire to heal her relationship with her husband that brings about their reconciliation.  The miracle that healed the turbulent marriage was not the water but her willingness to drink it; to stop and look at her husband with new eyes, to put aside her urge to lash out from hurts and disappointments and speak, first from the love they cherish in one another.

If we could take a moment and reflect on our lives, we can see times when we reduce others to “lepers”…people who are broken and don’t measure up to our standards of righteousness and goodness, who don’t “fit” our image of propriety and success.  Or perhaps we become swallowed up in our own sense of “uncleanness”… unworthiness and remove ourselves from family and community.  The request the leper makes of Jesus is a challenge to all of us who now seek to follow him.

Our prayer is simple, “If you wish, you can make me clean…” what is needed first is the will to put aside our own fears and doubts and interests to do so.  Jesus promises us the grace to be imitators of his compassion and forgiveness whenever we are ready to take the first step in healing the wounds and cleaning the “leprosy” that afflicts us and divides us from one another.

If we can just take the first sip from this simple prayer and hold on it in our hearts, I believe we will experience Jesus’ compassionate touch and hear his comforting words:  “I do will it. Be made clean.”


Homily # 3

The Healing Power of Touch

Healing requires involvement. Not only the involvement of money, time techniques, and talent but personal involvement.  Healing requires we touch, make contact, and connect flesh to flesh.  This is as frightening as it is essential.  For we don’t mind healing as long as we can keep a safe distance — emotionally and physically.
There is something about touching which leaves us a bit uneasy.  WE are not sure we have permission to enter the physical space of another in such a way.  We are afraid our touch may be rejected or misunderstood.  The other may pull back or draw too near.  Hence we often find ourselves playing it safe by remaining in our well-defined space.

However, those who work with the sick are finding the healing power of human touching. There is a real healing power and restoration which can occur through physical contact.  We can send a message of reassurance and remaining-with-the-other which dispels feelings of abandonment.  We also touch to reassure ourselves that we can be moved and respond to those in pain.

The gospel reading from Mark is a real shocker.  A leper approaches Jesus and wants to be healed.  The leper shows faith and courage.  He tells Jesus he believes that a cure is possible if Jesus desires it.  Furthermore, he shows courage by risking the rejection that one would expect.

The leper is unclean.  He should keep away from all the clean folks (especially super-clean Messiahs). How does he approach Jesus! Where is his bell and the self-hatred that announces to all this man is “unclean”?

The faith and courage of the leper are matched by the pity of Jesus.  The leper does not engage in self-pity so Jesus can show true pity and compassion.  Furthermore, Mark tells us that the bold actions of the leper are met by the even bolder actions of Jesus. “Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said ‘I do will it. Be cured.'”.

What is so shocking is not the cure but the manner of the cure.  That is, Jesus dares to touch this unclean leper.  He dares to risk contamination and impurity.  He dares to risk the harsh judgments of al the respectable folks.

What does this startling episode mean for us? The book of Leviticus indicates that those with leprosy must “dwell apart.”  The action of Jesus indicates that the time for reconciliation and healing are at hand.  Those who are far off can now come home and dwell as children of the one family of God.

We are all touched by various forms of leprosy.  We all have our unclean areas and aspects of our lives which dwell apart from the sunlight. Jesus came into the flesh; God touched our human flesh; God spoke himself into our bodily condition; so true healing can take place.

The Word becoming flesh is God’s total, absolutely, never to be taken back commitment to each of us.  God does not heal at a distance or play it safe in heaven.  God cares and cures.

And since God does all this he touches in the most profound ways all those clean and unclean aspects of our being.  In so doing we become a new creation; a new being; in the very likeness of Jesus.

Paul writing to the Corinthians challenges us to imitate Christ.  We are to be ministers of healing.  We are to lovingly touch those aspects of hurting lives which need healing.  So many in our society and church need healing and acceptance (divorced and remarried, those who have had abortion, AIDS patients, homosexuals, victims of violence, racism, sexism, ageism, and all who are hurt by life). As individual Christians and as a community we must risk touching and healing.  Jesus showed us the way.


Homily # 4

Every time I hear this Gospel, I wonder how awful it must have been for someone who had leprosy, especially in the time of Jesus, when they didn’t have any type of cure for it.  As you know, lepers were shunned and ignored by everybody, even their own friends and loved ones.

To be shunned and ignored by someone we love has to be one of life’s greatest heartaches.  Most of us have experienced being ignored, but it’s usually only for a short while.  How horrible it must be to be shunned permanently-a real tragedy.  And, that’s how it was for the leper who asked Jesus to cure him.

Try to remember that leprosy, even today, is not a ‘pretty’ disease.  So, notice how Jesus reacts to this outcast.  Jesus doesn’t react with revulsion, afraid that He’ll be contaminated.  Jesus has pity on this man.  Although everyone else shuns him, Jesus doesn’t.  Although everyone thinks that that this man’s situation is hopeless, Jesus doesn’t.  Although everybody flees from this ugly man in horror, Jesus doesn’t.  Instead, Jesus does the unthinkable.  Jesus reaches out and actually touches the man and this leper is cured.  His life is changed dramatically for the better in one single moment.  He is restored to society and can now live a normal life.

This simple story has good news for us who are alive today.  It says that Jesus is a true friend of the outcast-that Jesus won’t reject anybody who comes to Him.  Now, as then, Jesus’ touch gives us hope where we don’t see any hope.  Jesus restores people to fellowship with one another and to God.  And, how great is that?!

The Good News of our Gospel today is that our situations are not hopeless.  Always remember that God loves us just they way we are and not the way we think we ought to be.  He doesn’t love us because we are ‘good’, because we’re not good.  God doesn’t love us because of what we can ‘do’ for Him because we can’t do anything to earn His love.  God loves us because He is good and He wants to share His love and goodness with us.  And, this love is absolutely unconditional-not the kind of love that says, “I will love you if…” or “I will love you when…”.

For this love of God to bear fruit in our lives, however, we need to do what the leper did.  He recognized the hopelessness of his situation and came to Jesus for help.  And, so must we.  He didn’t need any reminder of his hopelessness.  Everyone around him-the people who shunned him-reminded him of his situation every minute of every day.

Unfortunately, there are far too many people today who have a great difficulty recognizing the things in their lives that cry out for Jesus’ healing touch-for His forgiveness.  These people have been in denial or have worn a mask for so long that they can no longer see their ‘real’ selves any more.  These people are completely satisfied with their lives.  They think that their attitudes and ideas are always the correct ones.  Their achievements are always the best.  In their own minds, their character is impeccable.  So, the Good News in today’s Gospel is not good news for these people.  They have their act together and have no need for Jesus and His healing power.

If, OTOH, we are willing to humble ourselves and come to Jesus-as did the leper-if we will tell Him how desperately we need Him, then we, too, will experience His healing touch.  All we have to do is come because Jesus is there just waiting for us.

And, if we think about it, all of us have a different kind of leprosy, don’t we?  Our leprosy might be gossip-ruining people’s reputations instead of building them up.  It might be that we are hard-hearted or mean or a liar or unforgiving.  Maybe we’ve become a sourpuss with an “I don’t care attitude” toward life.  These kinds of things can eat away at us just as viciously as leprosy eats away at our body.

So, the real question is “Do I want to be cured”?  And, if we do want to be cured, all we have to do is go to Jesus and ask Him to cure us.  Sometimes these are two of the hardest things that we’ll ever have to do in life because it is very hard to humble ourselves.  It is humbling.  Take off your mask of denial and do it.  You’ll never be sorry.

Jesus can and will change your life for the better.  He’ll heal you of whatever ails you whether it is physical or spiritual.  All you have to do is admit your needs and come.  His compassion and love for us will do the rest. The Lord heals the broken-hearted regardless of whatever type of leprosy we have.  Come.  Come and be healed.


Homily # 5

Today, our readings talk to us about leprosy.  Our First Reading shows us that in Moses’ time this sickness, and in reality all infectious skin diseases, were considered to be impure.  Those who contracted these terrible sicknesses, especially leprosy, were considered to be impure under Jewish law.  When a person was found to have this sickness the priest, following the procedures written in Jewish Law, ordered the sick person to withdraw from all contact with the community so that no one would be infected.  When people with leprosy approached other members of the community, if their presence had not been noticed, they were to shout out, “unclean”.  In this way they warned others of their presence so that the others could withdraw from the area and not risk contagion.

To us this practice seems to be cruel since today we know that leprosy is curable.  But Jewish laws were written to protect the people so that this sickness would not spread.  For the good of the community, these laws forced the sick person to make a terrible sacrifice, withdrawing from the community and becoming a person who was shunned even by his or her own family.

Saint Mark, in our Gospel Reading, shows us a the kind and compassionate Jesus with whom we have all become familiar.  The leper came close to Jesus thus showing his valor.  We don’t know exactly how he decided to do this since people with leprosy were not allowed to approach other people.  The sick man kneeled before Christ and simply said, “If you wish, you can make me clean.”  Jesus, seeing the faith that this man showed, answered, “I do will it. Be made clean.”  But Our Lord not only showed his mercy by curing the sick man.  He also touched him, something that at that time was forbidden, since no one knew how contagious this disease really was.

Even though Jesus asked the man to tell no one about what had occurred, as soon as the sick man was cured, hi went out and began to tell everyone about it.  We understand this reaction.  The man was expressing his happiness at seeing that he had been cured and he could not be silent about what had happened.  He “spread the report abroad” and told everyone about what Jesus had done for him.  The man probably was not even able to think about what he did.  He could not believe what had happened.  Because, as the Gospel tells us, the leprosy left him immediately and he was made clean.

Jesus wanted to go through this stage of his life with little public notice because he knew that this gave him more freedom to go about the towns of the region.  However, this healing restricted his freedom and from this time forward he had to remain outside in deserted placec.  But, even so, people kept coming to him from everywhere.

Leprosy was, and continues to be, a terrible sickness.  We, Christians, should look on sin as a spiritual sickness that is worse than leprosy for our souls.  We all sin.  Some people say, “I don’t go to confession because I don’t sin very much… “  These are words which always make us feel sad.  It almost always seems that people who say this are precisely the ones who have a great need to examine their conscience, go to a priest and speak with him about sin and its consequences.

There are also people who store away sin in their souls for years because the do not like to confess their sins o because they think that they don’t have to.  And, what is really sad, is that many of these people continue to receive the Holy Eucharist as if it meant nothing to them.  Fortunately, there are others who, when they sin, go to confession as soon as possible so as not to allow their sins to debilitate their souls as leprosy debilitates the body.  We, Catholics, have the great gift of the Sacrament of Penance.  Our Lord himself gave to the first priests, the apostles, the power to absolve sins when they “stand in for Christ,” so to speak.  And the apostles, when they chose their successors gave them these same powers.  That is why Catholic priests continue to have this same power.  All of us can be healed of our sins through the Sacrament of Penance, also called Confession.  That is where the Lord, through the priest, cures us of all of our spiritual sicknesses.

Unfortunately, there are some people who do not go to confession frequently.  Some do not even go at all.  It is sad to see how they refuse to take part in the gift that the Lord himself gives to us: pardon and reconciliation.

We should learn from the man with leprosy who, kneeling before Christ, recognized that he was sick and needed to be cured of his sickness.  We also need to be cured of our spiritual sicknesses.  Our soul needs to be healed.  If we continue to pile up mortal sin after mortal sin, we will continue to be terribly sick.  And we risk eternal condemnation.

Let us be truthful with ourselves, let us recognize that we are sinners and let us remember that we can be healed if we so wish it.  The priests are waiting in the confessionals.  They are ready and willing to show us the mercy of Christ.  If we “make a good confession” we will surely feel as the man with leprosy felt after being cured: radiant with joy.  And we will want to tell others, as he did, about the great good fortune and happiness that we have had when we experienced the healing power of Jesus Christ.

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Our modern-day lepers

By FR. BEL R. SAN LUIS, SVD

ONCE a jeepney was passing in front of a leprosarium. Two patients with visible physical deformities boarded. There was an uneasy silence as they wedged themselves between two passengers right behind the driver.

When the two asked the driver to stop to alight, one reached out her hand to pay the fare.

* * *

The driver, who didn’t want to touch the hand and coins for fear of contamination, said: “Hindi na bale. Libre na ang pamasahe ninyo” (Never mind, your fare is free).

The patient behind him was so grateful that she took his hand and kissed it! The driver almost fainted.

* * *

Leprosy is a terrible disease. During the time of Christ, lepers were even more pathetic. They were not only segregated as social outcasts to be shunned but their sickness was also considered as a punishment from God.

* * *

Today the equivalent of leprosy is AIDS, the dreaded contagious sickness. Among inventive Filipinos, AIDS means for students “Acute Insanity Due to Studies”; for the perennially broke (palaging kinakapos), it means “Acute Income Deficiency Syndrome”!

* * *

The leper in this 6th Sunday’s gospel (Mk 1:40-45) reveals how desperate he had become by openly entering a town in order to seek Jesus’ help. He approached our Lord and cried out: “Lord, if You will, You can heal me.”

Jesus stretched out his hand and said: “I do will it. Be cured.” And the leper was instantly cured. Note that Jesus was “moved to pity,” rather than by horror at the sight of the man.

* * *

Today, thanks to the advances of medical science, leprosy is curable and does not bear the moral stigma it once had. Nowadays we seldom meet lepers but we do have modern-day lepers.

They are those who are considered as social outcasts or shunned by people in society.

* * *

We have the women of ill-repute, the prisoners, the squatters living in makeshift houses, tribal people who’re often looked down upon and whose rights are abused.

What is our attitude towards them? What is the Christian response? Jesus reached out to the “unclean” leper despite the explicit prohibition of associating with such people.

* * *

In a meeting about a project of doing apostolate with prisoners in a provincial jail, one young man stood up and said: “Why undertake this project? Isn’t it only fair that they are put behind bars to suffer the consequences of their crime?” One from the group responded: “We live by another kind of standard.”

* * *

The “standard” which he referred to, and for every Christ’s follower, is the spirit of Christian love and compassion as shown by Jesus in this Sunday’s gospel.

APPLICATION: I’ll reach out to the outcasts, the lepers of modern society — prisoners, beggars, public sinners — by extending help like food, legal or financial assistance.

“Be compassionate and God will be compassionate on you.”

Moments
Hard of hearing

By Fr. Jerry Orbos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:33:00 02/15/2009

SOME years ago, I was asked by a wife to hear the confessions of her husband. Both were advanced in years, and the wife confided to me that her husband was hard of hearing. “Almost deaf,” she said. When we started, I was surprised that he was not deaf at all! His hearing was normal. Why did he fake his deafness? “For peace,” he said with a smile, and a wink.

* * *

In Sunday’s Gospel (Mk. 1, 40-45) we hear of a leper who was deaf to the disgust and objection of the crowd as he knelt before Jesus. Lepers then were outcasts and were not allowed to approach clean people. Defying all rules and traditions, all he could hear was the voice of faith within. The voice told him he could get well and be cleansed. Do you still listen to the voice within? Do you really listen to God? Or are you just a crowd pleaser and appeaser?

* * *

There are times when we just have to be on the “selective hearing” mode. We can’t possibly listen to everything and to everyone. In the end, it is best to listen to our conscience and be guided accordingly. Listen to the Master. Even the dogs do that. Ah, that’s the whole point. As long as a person has a Master, a something or someone greater than himself/herself, then he/she can truly listen. Otherwise, life would be all about I, me, and myself all the way.

* * *

Kudos to the people of Bataan, the simple fishermen who saved about 200 melon-headed dolphins last Feb. 10 from being beached on the shores of Pilar, Bataan. Experts later on explained that the phenomenon was caused by a “disoriented leader” whom the dolphins were following. For leaders, this should be a reminder of their great responsibility to people. It should also be a reminder for us, the people, to be vigilant and to make sure that we are not being misled, used or misdirected by our leaders.

* * *

Years ago, these poor dolphins would have been mercilessly butchered and eaten, but what the fisher folk did was such a heartwarming act. Yes, we are finally listening to nature and Mother Earth. We are listening, and we are finally learning. It is hoped that some lessons will not be too late for the learning.

* * *

It would be good for liars to tape or video what they are saying. And let them listen to themselves again and again in front of a mirror. I bet you, after some time they won’t be able to look even themselves straight in the eye. Sooner or later, they’d stop because they won’t be able to go on listening to their own lies. On the other hand, a truthful person can listen to his/her own truths with equanimity, and look himself/herself straight in the eye, with peace and tranquility deep inside. You bet, telling lies is stressful. Telling the truth is not.

* * *

Was there ever a time in your life when no one and nothing mattered except God and his Word? If yes, then you know what real prayer, what trust and surrender is all about. If no, well, maybe you are hard of hearing, having difficulty listening to God’s word and love. Why? Because you are more receptive to other voices and loves. But don’t worry, time will come when you will be at the doorstep of eternal life. Hoping that you will finally listen, then.

* * *

“The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter.” The leper who was healed was so grateful for his healing, and he became a messenger of God’s love. Are you one of those people who have received blessings, healing, and forgiveness and yet continue to spread your old ways instead of God’s ways? Ingrate. That’s what we all are, some to a greater degree, others to a lesser degree. And so, what are we going to spread the rest of our lives, we who are already on borrowed time, or are already in the sunset years of life? Listen: When will you stop hurting and start loving? When will you stop lying and start cleansing? When will you stop getting and start giving? Finally, when will you really start listening?

* * *

PHILIPPINE SVD CENTENNIAL MOMENT:

Fr. Leo Behneke, SVD was a former missionary from China who came to the Philippines in 1958 and became the director of Binmaley Catholic High School in 1965, which he claimed he ran “single-handedly” for so many years. That was historically and also literally true. Why? Because Father Leo, fondly called the “single-armed bandit,” had only one arm. He lost his right arm when he was a seminarian. Jokingly, he would often introduce himself as a priest who had no right.

* * *

A beautiful prayer:

“Take my hand O Blessed Mother, hold me firmly lest I fall. I am nervous when I am walking, and on you I humbly call. Guide me over every crossing, and bring me safely to my destination. Help me with every undertaking as the hours pass by. And when evening falls, and I fear to be alone, take my hand O Blessed Mother and protect me and my home. Amen.”

* * *

A moment with the Lord:

Lord, help me who hardly listens to really listen hard from now on. Amen.

************************************************************************

Word Alive

The Faith of the Leper

By FR. BEL R. SAN LUIS, SVD

February 10, 2012, 11:00pm

MANILA, Philippines — Once a jeepney was passing in front of a leprosarium. Two patients with visible physical deformities boarded. There was an uneasy silence as they wedged themselves between two passengers right behind the driver.

When the two asked the driver to stop to alight, one reached out her hand to pay the fare. The driver, who was afraid to touch the hand and coins for fear of contamination, said: “Hindi na bale. Libre na ang pamasahe ninyo” (Never mind. Your fare is free).”

The patient was so grateful that she grabbed his hand and kissed it! The driver almost fainted.

* * *

That amusing story shows how leprosy is dreaded even today. During the time of Christ, lepers were even more pathetic. They were not only segregated as social outcasts to be shunned but also considered their sickness as a punishment from God.

Today the equivalent of leprosy is AIDS, the horrible contagious sickness. By the way, AIDS has different meanings for inventive Filipinos. For students, it means “Acute Insanity Due to Studies” and for the perennially broke (palaging kinakapos), it means “Acute Income Deficiency Syndrome.”

* * *

The leper in this 6th Sunday’s gospel (Mk 1:40-45) reveals how desperate he had become by openly entering a town in order to seek Jesus’ help. He approached our Lord and cried out: “Lord, if You will, You can heal me.”

Jesus stretched out His hand and said: “I do will it. Be cured.” And the leper was instantly cured. Note that Jesus was “moved to pity,” rather than by fear of the man’s sickness.

* * *

Today, thanks to the advances of medical science, leprosy is curable and does not bear the moral stigma it once had. Nowadays we seldom meet lepers but we do have modern-day lepers.

They are those who are considered as social outcasts or shunned by people in society. We have the women of ill-repute,  prisoners,  squatters living in makeshift houses, tribal people who’re often looked down upon and whose rights, especially on their ancestral lands, are abused.

What is our attitude towards them? What is the Christian response? Jesus reached out to the unclean leper despite the explicit prohibition of associating with such people.

* * *

In a meeting about a project of doing apostolate with prisoners in a provincial jail, one young man stood up and said: “Why undertake this project? Isn’t it only fair that they are put behind bars to suffer for the consequences of their crime?” Someone from the group responded: “We live by another kind of standard.”

The “standard” which he referred to, and for every Christ’s follower, is the spirit of Christian love and compassion as shown by the Lord in this Sunday’s gospel.

* * *

There’s another important insight in the Sunday gospel. Note that the leper comes to Jesus and asks to be cured. Jesus stretches out his hand to the leper and cured him. We go to doctors in hospitals, but do we ever go to Jesus in prayer or His sacraments?

May we have the faith of the leper , a trustful faith in our Lord’s power to heal all illnesses whether they be physical, spiritual, or psychological.

http://www.mb.com.ph/articles/350976/the-faith-leper

***********************************************************************

Moments

Follow instructions!

By: Fr. Jerry M. Orbos
Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:03 am | Sunday, February 12th, 2012

The story is told about a boy who asked his father what  an “F” in his report card meant. The father thought a while, and told him that “F” meant “Fassed.” In return, the son said: “No Dad, I think ‘F’ means “Ferfect”!

* * *

In today’s Gospel (Mk. 1, 40-45) we hear of the healing of a leper by Jesus. The Healer was perfect. But the healed leper was not. Why? Because he did not follow instructions. He was told not to tell the miracle to anyone, but he went away and began to publicize the whole matter. If God tells us something, we must listen, follow, obey and carry out His instructions.

* * *

When God orders us to do something, we must listen. Many of us half-listen or do not listen at all. Why? Because we listen to ourselves or to the world around us. God speaks to us every day in ordinary ways. In the Holy Bible He speaks to us in a special way. If we want to listen to God, we must tone down the volume of our own headsets and the noise of the world around us. Only with a listening ear, and a prayerful heart can we truly listen and discern.

* * *

In his joy and amazement the leper forgot to follow the instructions of Jesus to keep secret the whole incident, and to go show himself to the priest and make an offering for his cleansing just as  Moses commanded. As a result of the leper’s not following instructions, Jesus’ fame spread far and wide. But the downside of the whole thing is that He was no longer free to go anywhere because of the crowd, and He began to have trouble with the authorities.

* * *

Enthusiasm can easily become the enemy of reason, or true commitment for that matter. A lot of sins have been committed by well-meaning and good-intentioned people and eager beavers.  There is a thin line between enthusiasm and fanaticism. At any moment of our lives, we must keep raising the question whether it is really God, or is it just ourselves which is at the center of all our plans, actions and understandings.

* * *

Advance Happy Valentine’s Day! In today’s Gospel, we read that Jesus was “moved with pity” toward the leper who knelt before Him and begged for His healing. Jesus had a heart, a compassionate heart! Let this be a reminder to us that matters of the heart do and still matter. Let us not oh so belittle compassion in this world so full of all sorts of passions!

* * *

Someone said that we are living in “less” times. And so it is that our gadgets are wire-less, our doors are key-less, our youth are job-less, our leaders are shame-less, our relationships are meaning-less, our attitudes are care-less, our values are heart-less and the situation is becoming hope-less. The only way to reverse the situation is to go back to God’s heart and really listen, follow and obey His instructions, and there meet Him, and meet each other as brothers and sisters again.

* * *

The leprosy that plagues our times is that of talk. So much church talk, government talk, media talk, neighborhood talk! What is needed is action. Our people need our presence and action to alleviate their suffering and hopelessness, not so much our rules, legislation, doctrines or regulations.

* * *

I wonder what our people feel when in their dire need and suffering, all we give them is our dose of “panis et circensis,” i.e., bread and circus. We give them some crumbs and entertainment so that they forget the real issues, and they do not wake up to their rights and they do not demand from us our responsibilities. In that sense we still put the “lepers” of our society in their “proper place” and we enjoy our undisturbed comfort zones, all the while claiming ourselves to be public servants or servant leaders, disciples or what have you. Jesus tells us today to be present and to be of help to the lost, the least and the last among us.

* * *

“Little things mean a lot.” It meant a lot for the leper that Jesus stopped for Him. It meant an awful lot for the leper that Jesus allowed him to come near. And it meant an awesome lot that Jesus healed him. We do not really have to do great things the way Jesus did, but each one of us, in our own small way, can leave behind our “heartprints” in people’s lives. As Mother Teresa put it beautifully, we just do whatever we do with much love.

* * *

Some thoughts for Valentine’s Day: “Our days are better when we give others a piece of our hearts rather than a piece of our minds.” “As we grow older, our arteries may harden, but hopefully not our hearts.” “The most lonely place in the world is the human heart when love is absent.”

* * *

At the end of our lives, when our names are called out loud, may we hear the Lord say “Passed”! May we not hear the Lord say “Failed!” because we did not follow instructions.

* * *

Wishing you all a heart that is light and a face that is bright. Wishing us all to live healthy, helpful and happy lives. Happy Valentine’s Day!

* * *

A moment with the Lord:

Lord, help me to really listen, follow, obey and carry out your instructions. Amen.

http://opinion.inquirer.net/22891/follow-instructions

***********************************************************************

Leprosy was the most dreaded disease of the ancient world. It was considered the worst curse of God. It was horrible, repulsive, disfiguring, and ultimately fatal disease. In the first reading, we see some of the laws from the book of Leviticus regarding leprosy. The leper had to show himself to the priest, declare himself unclean, and be isolated from the community. He had to shout out to passersby, “unclean, unclean!”

In the scriptures, diseases of the body are often symbolic of sin, the disease of the soul. One of the most powerful symbols of sin is the disease of leprosy. As horrible as leprosy is, sin is worse. This is not easy for us to believe, because we are largely blind to what our sin condition really looks like, and to the effects that our sins have on ourselves and others. If we could see sin as it really is, we would be appalled and disgusted by it.

God does see sin as it truly is. He sees the ugliness of it, and the devastation that, it causes. He hates sin, but he has only mercy and compassion on sinners. No matter how ugly a person’s sin might be, God does not turn away in disgust, but reaches out with love and healing. We can see this love portrayed for us in today’s gospel, in the way Jesus deals with a leper. The leper was probably an ugly sight, frightening to see, maybe smelling bad. He approaches Jesus with faith and with great humility, kneeling down in front of him and making this beautiful prayer: “if you will to do so, you can cure me.” Jesus does not avoid the leper or reject him in any way, rather, he is “moved with pity.” We see here the response in the heart of God towards a sinner. Then, the gospel says, “He stretched out his hand and touched him.” This was an unimaginable act at time: to touch a leper! He tells the leper: “I do will it. Be cured.” Thus he reveals the will of God for sinners: that they be “cured,” freed from sin.

We are all sinners. Often our first reaction when we see our sin or sense it in our conscience is to hide it, hoping no one will notice it. We tell ourselves that it’s not really so bad. We even try to hide from God, like Adam in the Garden of Eden, in the vain that he will not see our sin. But sin does not simply go away, or get better on its own. If we deny our sin condition, we can never be cured of it. Healing only takes place when we show ourselves to Jesus, our great High Priest. When we repent, we present ourselves humbly before Jesus and say to Him, “If you will to do so, you can cure me. You can make me clean. I can’t do it myself. Only you can do it, Lord Jesus.”

How do we experience this in our lives? There are many ways Jesus touches us, but among the most important ways is through the sacraments. Confession is the sacrament in which we “show ourselves” to the priest and expose our sin. We do not hide anything, we reveal our ugly condition. The things that we do not allow anybody else to know or see, we say it loud before the Lord in the confessional. There in confession we are truly touched by Jesus. He says to us, “I do will it. Be cured.” And it happens! When we come out of the confessional, we are clean, spiritually healed. It is a very beautiful gift.

Our heart’s desire is to live as St. Paul urges us, “all for the glory of God.” Like him, we want more than anything to be imitators of Christ. So let us make a firm decision to reject sin on our lives. Let us show ourselves to Jesus Christ and be set free from sin. Let us present ourselves humbly to him in the sacrament of Confession so that he can touch us and make us clean.

Am I willing to show my inner self to the priest through the sacrament of reconciliation? Do I use the sacrament of reconciliation for the grace the Lord wants to give me, or just to make myself feel better? Do my pride and fear keep me from allowing Jesus to touch the deepest recesses of my heart to heal me? (from: Pondering the Word THE ANAWIM WAY, January 8 to February 21, 2012 Cycle B Year 2 pp. 191-193)

************************************************************************

ANG MGA KETONGIN NGAYON: Reflection for 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B – February 12, 2012

May isang lalaking tumawag sa isang SPA clinic at nagtatanong sa receptionist kung meron silang available room. “Meron po sir, special at ordinary.” Sabi ng receptionist. “Anung pagkakaiba ng dalawa?” Tanong ng lalaki. “Sir, yung special may TV at masahista… Yung ordinary… may TB yung masahista!” hehehe… Mahirap ang may TB, nakakahawa. Hanggang ngayon isa pa rin ito sa mga sakit na kinatatakutan. Gayun din ang AIDS, meninggo occimia, bird flu… etc. Noong panahon ni Jesus, ketong ang kinatatakutan! Kaya nga ang may ketong tinitiwalag, hinihiwalay… pinandidirihan! Sa kaniwalang paniniwala ang ketong ay parusang ipinataw ng Diyos sa isang tao dahil sa kanyang malaking kasalanan o sa kasalanan ng lahi nila. Kaya nga ang isang may ketong ay inihihiwalay sapagkat siya’y makasalanan… marumi. Batid ni Jesus ang abang kalagayan ng mga ketongin. Dama niya ang sakit na dulot ng isang taong pinandidirihan at hindi tinatanggap sa lipunan. Kaya nga si Jesus ay hindi nagdalawang isip na pagalingin ang ketongin, hindi lamang upang linisin siya sa kanyang sugat kundi upang hilumin ang sakit na ibinigay nito sa kanya dahil sa mababang pagtingin sa kanya ng mga tao dala ng kanyang abang kalagayan. May mga ketongin din sa ating makabagong panahon na dapat nating damayan at bigyan ng pansin. Hindi lamang mga taong may nakakahawang sakit kundi ang “ketong” na naglalayo sa atin sa ating kapwa. May mga taong pinandidirihan natin dahil sa kanilang katayuan sa buhay katulad ng mga taong mahihirap, mga taong nalululon sa mga pinagbabawal na gamot, mga taong di tanggap ng lipunan dahil sa kanilang immoral na pamumuhay. Marahil minamaliit natin ang iba dahil sa mas angat ang ating kalagayan sa kanila. Marahil mas “banal” ang tingin natin sa ating sarili kaysa mga taong malayo sa Diyos, marahil may mga tao tayong hindi pinapansin, hindi pa pinapatawad. Napakaraming ketongin na dapat tanggapin at pagalingin. Ang tanong, “inilalayo mo rin ba ang iyong sarili sa kanila?” Mag-ingat tayo sapagkat wala tayong kamalay-malay na isa na rin pala tayo sa mga taong ating pinandidirihan. At kung minsan nga… mas masahol pa sa kanila! Bakit hindi natin iabot ang ating kamay sa mga taong ito katulad ng ginawa ni Jesus. Wala man tayong kakayahang magpagaling ng kanilang sakit, may kakayahan naman tayong hilumin ang sugat na naglalayo sa kanila sa Diyos.

http://kiliti-ng-diyos.blogspot.com/2012/02/ang-mga-ketongin-ngayon-reflection-for.html

*************************************************************************

See Today’s Readings:  Cycle B

Back to: Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)

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