Fr. Vincent Hawkswell
“The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron,” we hear in this Sunday’s First Reading, ordering that people with “the leprous disease” should cover their upper lips and live alone outside the camp.
That was about 1,400 years before Christ. Leprosy, known from the 16th century BC, is thought to have spread to the western world from Egypt, starting with the Exodus. Not until the end of the 17th century AD did it become rare, thanks to strict legislation.
For example, Pope Gregory II wrote to St. Boniface in 726 AD, “Lepers who belong to the Christian faith should be allowed to partake of the Body and Blood of the Lord, but they may not attend sacred functions with people in good health.” (2021)
Fr. Austin Fleming
A CONCORD PASTOR COMMENTS
In today’s gospel story, Jesus reached out and touched the leper, healing him and restoring him to the community – that’s what’s meant by sending the man off to see the priests. Lent begins this week. Lent is a season of opening up our hearts and minds and our lives, of opening ourselves up to God’s deep and abiding love for us. Lent is a time, a whole season, for inviting the Lord to reach out to us and to touch us with his healing love, with his cleansing mercy, with his forgiving touch. Lent is a season for believing that God loves us: a season for remembering God’s message of love, his word of love made flesh for us in the person, in the gift of his Son, Jesus. (2018)
Fr. Evans K Chama, M.Afr
Be careful, it’s highly contagious! Surely, we take the caution seriously as we are sensitive to microbes and viruses. But are we also careful enough so that such legitimate mechanism to protect ourselves doesn’t become a tool of exclusion? In a scandalous gesture to the leper Jesus has something to tell us. (2018)
Fr. Chama’s reflection is divided into the following sections:
- Why all such details?
- Losing sight of a human person
- He touched a leper
- Not for lesson, but for introspection
- To love is to dare!
- Happily, we have contemporary roles models
Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino
DIOCESE OF ST. PETERSBURG
Who are the outcasts of our society? Are the outcasts people with AIDS or other terrible illnesses? Are the outcasts the poor of the third world? Are the outcasts the immigrants? Are there outcasts in your family or my family? Is the outcast of your family or my family that son or daughter, brother or sister, or cousin who has embarrassed the family by getting involved with illegal activities or living an immoral lifestyle? Are we willing to reach out to them? Are we willing to touch the outcast, or are we afraid that we might become unclean? Perhaps, if we resume friendship with that difficult cousin, the rest of our family will have nothing to do with us. Unclean! Or if we make friends with that girl or guy in school or the office or neighborhood labeled by others as unworthy of anyone’s attention, we also will be rejected. Unclean! Or if we become advocates for migrants who work hard to send money to their impoverished families, then we will be accused of being aligned with the few bad among them who have done horrible things, even if the percentage of bad people among them is far less the percentage of evildoers who are American citizens. Still some will say to those who reach out to the immigrants, “Unclean!” (2021)
Today’s Gospel continues Mark’s account of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee. The reading offers a model for empathy and care for the sick… The Gospel reminds us to treat all people, especially the sick, with dignity, care and respect. Shaming or humiliating the afflicted is never acceptable. Moreover, even if isolation is required to avoid the spread of disease, people should not be forgotten. Jesus’ openness and compassionate touch are excellent examples for everyone, especially medical professionals, of how to interact with people in need of healing. (2021)
Fr. George Smiga
BUILDING ON THE WORD
Every so often it is important for us to ask the BIG question. What difference does it make to have faith in Jesus Christ? How can we tell the difference between a person who has faith and a person who does not? This is an important question. Because if the believer and the non-believer look exactly the same, if we cannot find some way to distinguish the one from the other, then faith is without value. Faith, if it is to have authority, must somehow make a difference, an impact upon the way we live.
The apostle Paul certainly believed in the centrality of faith. In today’s second reading he says, “Whether you eat, or whether you drink or what ever you do, do everything for the glory of God.” Paul believes that faith should influence every aspect of our lives. It should affect the way that we love, the way that we work, the decisions that we make, the clothes that we wear, the music that we hear. It should influence the way we brush our teeth. Paul believes that faith is to influence everything we do. (2003)
Title of Fr. Smiga’s other homilies for this Sunday (located on the same page) are:
- Beware of the mousetrap (First Reading; Gospel)
- The power of joy (Gospel)
- Touching the leper (Gospel)
- What God intends (Gospel)
Fr. John Kavanaugh, SJ
SUNDAY WEB SITE
Pimples. Boils. Ugliness. Wrinkles. Fat. Sores. Open wounds. Rashes. Blotches. Blemishes. Disfigurement.
The thought of such afflictions can be particularly unnerving—especially in a culture that lives by appearances and first impressions. Although quite possibly every culture prizes the surface of things, ours seems to have made a science of the old advertising slogan: “Looking good is everything.”
Looking bad is disastrous. It is the fate of the outsider, the face of the other, marginalized and excluded. Surface defects seem inescapable, since our appearances are so evident and immediate. (1997)
A CATHOLIC MOMENT
I see it in the world in which we are raising our son. We want to protect our kids – yes. We want to shield them from the bad, from the ugly – yes. But too often we raise them in a bubble, protected from everything, not having to solve problems, and not understanding that there are people that don’t have it as nice. Sometimes they need to see some of the ugliness, so that they know that life is not fair, that there are people that in need of help, and that they know who to pray for, and to develop humility, gratitude and compassion.
We all need this. I think we all live in our own little bubble sometimes. Many of us, myself included, often turn a blind eye to the ugly of the world. Turn off the TV. Stop reading the news. Avoid that street because that’s where the homeless people are. Pretend that the ugly doesn’t exist. It’s much more comfortable that way. There is something to be said for not filling up your mind with junk, but we can’t turn a blind eye to evil and despair. (2018)
In view of this, there is hope for the “modern lepers” among us — prisoners, prostitutes, those with AIDS and infectious diseases, the lonely, the rejected, those who suffer injustice, the marginalized poor, in short, those of us ignored by society. We can live in hope because Jesus our Savior is not a stranger to suffering.
But Mark does not only present Jesus as a healer — which in itself is already a messianic sign, that is, through His ministry of healing, Jesus is showing that the Reign of God is now at work in our midst — sickness, suffering and death having been brought into the world by the Evil One. He also presents Jesus as a teacher: He has come to proclaim the Good News of salvation, that the Reign of God has began, and to become members of His Kingdom, we are to live its values.
if we want to maintain a healthy spiritual life, we don’t simply try to avoid sin, though that’s really not a bad idea. We look deep within ourselves and try to develop a lasting relationship with God. We seek proper nourishment through the sacraments. We work out proper and healthy relationships with those who surround us who, like us, are created in the image and likeness of God. We learn about our own faith and exercise our souls through spiritual retreats and a prayerful life. We practice spiritual self-discipline which means that we learn to deal with unhealthy attitudes and desires, with temptations, that well up within all of us from time to time. And when we know that we are sick, we go to Jesus, as the leper did, and in the Sacrament of Penance we confess our sins, we take our spiritual medicine and we move on to healthier choices in our lives. We love the one God who in turn loves us. We trust in the one God who in turn has placed his trust in us. And we believe in the one God who in turn believes in us.
It was like any other wedding except that the bride and groom were both lepers, so were most of the guests at the table. The couple were both young when they met at the Sanitarium. They have fallen in love with each other. The disease may have afflicted their skin but not their hearts.
Beside leprosy, there are other diseases today that leads to marginalization. The great freedom fighter Nelson Mandela of South Africa is not just an advocate of freedom and racial equality. He also advocates support for the victims of AIDS. This new form of leprosy is taking its toll on so many people around the world. He tells the story of visiting an AIDS patient. Many people accompanied him to the door of the house. After he talked to the patient and went out of the house, all the people fled away from him!
Every marriage needs healing, and the touch of Christ alone heals. It’s up to the couple to approach the Lord with the very same faith as the leper in the gospel: “If you choose, you can make me clean. You can heal us Lord”. If he sees that faith in a couple struggling to love one another as Christ loves his Bride, he will be moved with pity, stretch out his hand and touch them, saying: “I do choose. Be made clean.”
Death is our final act; it becomes a holy act, a final and definitive prayer in fact, when we join our suffering and our death to the suffering and death of Christ. At death, we get to exercise our office of priesthood in the act of dying, by offering ourselves and our entire life to God.