A HOMILY FOR THE SIXTH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME – CYCLE “B” – 2/11/18 – SMG
+ Pax ET Bonum! Peace and goodness to you this day!
In the history of mankind, there is perhaps no disease or sickness that has struck more terror in humans, than leprosy. Leprosy is also called Hansen’s disease, because in 1873, the Norwegian doctor, Dr. Gerhard Henrik Armauer Hansen, was the first doctor to identify that causes leprosy under a microscope. However, the recorded history of leprosy goes back to ancient times, long before they knew what caused it. Leprosy appears more than 40 times in both the Old and the New Testament. And in particular in the O.T. Book of Leviticus, the disease is seen as connected to, and punishment for, sin. Literally, for thousands of years, lepers were seen as the real “Walking Dead”.
In the modern world, especially in the West, we don’t hear much about leprosy anymore. There were 63 people in the United States diagnosed with the disease in 2015. That’s a pretty small amount. Unless you are one of those 63. Probably, of more concern to us, should be the fact, that in the last three to four years, our scientists and medical people have seen the bacteria which causes leprosy, mutate very rapidly. So much so, that the antibiotics that have been used to treat the disease in the last hundred and fifty years, are quickly being outsmarted by the bacteria itself. This is of course, begs the question, is leprosy making a world-wide comeback?
Leprosy is terrible thing. You can have the disease for five to twenty years before any symptoms occur. You get it from close, prolonged contact with another person who has the disease. It is not easy to get. There is some evidence that in the southwestern United States that armadillos are carrying the disease. So we should all avoid armadillos. But once the disease appears, your life is pretty much over. You literally watch yourself on the outside. There’s a reason why, down through history, and even today, leprosy, is such a feared disease.
Today, in our Gospel, Jesus runs into a man who has leprosy. And it’s interesting, you know, the man says, “If you wish, YOU can make me clean.” “If you wish”, the man says. No one would ever want anybody to suffer from leprosy. You wouldn’t wish leprosy on your worst enemy. But the man clearly has faith that Jesus can heal him! The reality is that the man shouldn’t be kneeling in front of Jesus period. It was against the law. It was also against the law for Jesus to touch the leper. And yet the Gospel makes it clear that He does so. And Jesus doesn’t say “Be healed”. He says, “Be made clean!” And the man is made clean. He is given his life back. Scripture scholars tell us that the healing of this leper is as important as the raising of Lazarus from dead, later on in the Gospel. Jesus does this amazing thing for this man.
So, we come to church today, and we hear this story, another amazing story of what God did for somebody else, a long time ago. Why is this story of this leper, so important for all of us here today? Why is this Gospel good news for all of us today? I mean, most likely, there’s not one of us who are here today, who has leprosy. So are we just supposed to be happy for this poor guy, is that the point?
Well, we should be happy for this guy. We should be happy whenever anybody is granted such a great miracle. But the whole point of the healing of this leper is to remind us that our God can do this. And that leprosy isn’t the only thing that God is really good at healing, but even more, this God is extremely good at healing sins, or in the context of this Gospel reading, making “clean” sinners. And there, my brothers and sisters, is where this Gospel is extremely good news for all of us!
You see, we might not have leprosy, but you and me, we sin. And we’re really good at sinning. And sometimes, just like that leper, we can make some really big messes of our life, by our sin. And this same Jesus, Who gave the leper his life back, also wants to give us our lives back, by taking away our sins, and by forgiving our trespasses.
This coming Wednesday, we are going to go into the holiest season of the year for us as Catholics, and that is Lent. And this Lent, like the leper, we cry to Jesus, “Lord, if you will it, YOU can make us clean.” And of course, we know that Jesus does will it, because He came to die on that Cross to take away our sins. And He will make us clean! And Lent is the perfect time to let our Lord do that! Make no mistake about it, we need Jesus’ healing power even more than this leper did. Leprosy only kills the body. But our sin? Our sin can kill the body and the soul! Lent then is the perfect time to change. Lent is the opportunity to get sin out of our lives, and be holy! Lent is God’s and the Church’s gift to us, to help us to be made clean, and to get our lives back on the right track. Everybody falls down. Everybody makes mistakes. But those redeemed by Jesus Christ, are the ones who are given the chance to be made clean, to start all over, to live again!
Why suffer from something that is killing us, when Jesus offers us all the chance to be made clean? That must have been what this poor leper thought! And it is exactly what God wants us to think, when it comes to our sinfulness.
Let us get ready to make this the best Lent ever. May we too cry out, “Lord, make me clean!”
+ May God bless us, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit… AMEN !!!
St. Maria Goretti… Pray for us !!!