February 15, 2015 – Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
There is no question that Jesus understood healing. It was something He did on a regular basis, but the Lord also recognized the need of people to be healed. Today’s readings may speak to healing of disease, but the idea of healing is something that each of us needs as well.
The term “leprosy” appears 68 times in the Bible (55 times in the Old Testament and 13 times in the New Testament). Jesus defied the notion that lepers were to be avoided and never touched. Not only did the Lord touch and heal lepers, He treated them with love and compassion and respect. Jesus knew that just as leprosy is contagious and spreads, so does sin. Leprosy may begin in a minor way, but it can increase in intensity and spread quickly. Sin is very much the same. As we approach Lent and Easter, we need to deal with, acknowledge, and address our sins.
This is a time when we must make a concerted effort to focus on and develop our relationship with God. In the second reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, Paul advises us to do “everything for the glory of God.” He immediately follows that counsel by saying “Avoid giving offense.” This may seem like a mere warning to take care how we treat others, but it means more than that. In this case St. Paul may see an “offense” as a way we may lead others to sin. This concentration on sin is what connects all of the readings today.
Finally Paul directs us to imitate him as he imitates Christ. In his letter to Timothy St. Paul offers the same advice in more depth: “…be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” Jesus reminded us often, and this is also true to those who practice stewardship as a way of life that what we do is more important than what we say. Our lives are a testament to our faith and discipleship. When Paul tells us to “imitate” him, he knows full well the commitment and sacrifice required to be a good Christian, a good follower of Christ.
Again this is important for us to remember as we begin our Lenten journeys. We need to focus on God and our relationship with God; we need to attend to our sins; and like Paul we need to offer good examples of stewardship and the Christian life to others.
The Gospel from Mark relates the healing of a leper by Jesus. This is the first instance of Jesus dealing with a leper, and it occurs at the beginning of His public ministry. Note that the leper does not appeal to the Lord to “heal” him, he asks Jesus to “make me clean.” Healing is one thing; making one “clean” is another. We all desire and need cleansing from sin and the many things that go with it. Jesus responds to the leper, upon touching him, saying “You are clean.” When we seek reconciliation with God through confession, we are following the same formula as laid out in this Gospel. The priest may say various words upon completion of our confession, but a common phrase is “I absolve you…” When the priest says that, it is the same as hearing the words: “Be made clean.”
Leprosy was considered incurable, but it was not incurable for Jesus. Our sins, as challenging as they may seem to us, are also curable with the Lord’s help. Now is the time to seek it.