Homily 14th February, 2021

Leper talking to Jesus

 

Homily for the 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

There are only a few thoughts I wanted to share with you after reading and pondering today’s gospel. A week ago, we heard the gospel of the healing of Simon’s mother-in-law, and today we are witnessing a slightly different, but equally spectacular miracle of healing. This time the main character of the gospel is a man suffering from leprosy.

The first thing today’s gospel draws our attention to is the courage and determination of this anonymous sick man. We can easily imagine how great must have been the shock or rather terror of all those people who noticed this man walking freely along the streets of the town. I think that even a man infected with the Corona Virus would not arouse as much sensation and terror among the crowds as did this poor leper. Also, in today’s first reading we heard that leprosy was regarded as an extremely dangerous disease that excluded people from the family, from any community and from any other environment. A man infected with leprosy must shield his upper lip and cry, “Unclean, unclean.” – says the first reading – As long as the disease lasts he must be unclean; and therefore he must live apart; he must live outside the camp.

As you may have noticed, the main character of today’s gospel didn’t ask Jesus for anything specific. He didn’t express his wish directly, although his desire seemed so obvious to everyone. He didn’t say to Jesus: Please make my leprosy go away from me, restore my health and set me free from this terrible burden of disease. But what we heard and witnessed in this gospel is, first and foremost a confession of very deep faith in the power of Jesus who, as we also said a week ago, is the Almighty Physician of our bodies and souls.

If you want to, you can cure me. Listening to this short prayer, we can get the impression that this man wanted to say something very shyly. As if he was not confident enough or just doubted that he deserved to stand before Jesus to talk to him and ask him for any favour. As if he wanted to say to Jesus: I don’t want to suggest any ready-made solutions to you, I don’t dare to ask for anything specific because you yourself can see and perfectly know what I desperately need at this stage. You can cure me if you want. I think today on the sixth Sunday in ordinary time – just a few days before Ash Wednesday and Lent – God is giving us this Gospel as a kind of introduction and encouragement to enter this beautiful time of Lent with new enthusiasm and trust.

I think each of us is – in a sense – very similar to the main hero of today’s gospel. Perhaps – thank God – we have never had very serious health problems, we’ve never suffered from leprosy but our leprosy can also be our sins, weaknesses, our daily failures and what we are the most ashamed of in our lives. Reflecting on this gospel, Pope Francis said a few years ago: No disease is a cause of impurity: disease certainly involves the whole person, but in no way does it impair or impede his or her relationship with God. On the contrary, a sick person can be even more united with God. Instead, sin: that yes, is what makes us unclean! Selfishness, arrogance, entering the world of corruption: these are diseases of the heart from which we need to be purified by turning to Jesus like the leper: “If you want, you can cure me, you can make me clean!”.

During Lent, Jesus wants to encourage us not to hesitate to approach him and touch him with greater courage, like the leper in today’s Gospel. Even in an ongoing pandemic, when we have to keep social distance everywhere, we can approach Jesus and touch him in the sacrament of Confession and Holy Communion. Like the lepper, we don’t have to be embarrassed at all, we don’t even have to express any specific wishes and desires, but our honesty before God, our trust, our faith and especially our humility before him can completely change our lives or even work miracles.

Let us take this beautiful prayer of the leper with us, and when we experience any kinds of difficulties, loneliness, rejection or any diseases of our soul or body, let us repeat silently in our hearts: Jesus, if you want, you can cure me. I am sure that – as in today’s gospel – his divine compassion and immediate intervention will be the source of our joy and peace.

Fr Gregory