Thursday, February 2, 2012

Homily: Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time B: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily: Sixth Sunday of Ordinary time Year B:   Fr. Michael U Udoekpo
Readings: Lev 13:1-2, 44-46; Ps 32:1-2, 5, 11; 1 Cor 10:31–11:1; and Mk 1:40-45

Christ: Merciful and Compassionate

Last Sunday Jesus healed the fever of Simon's mother in-law. The readings of today continue to present Jesus as new prophet, a martyr-messiah and a miracle worker and a healer. He brings mercy, forgiveness, compassion, hope and renewal for the people of God, especially the lepers as against the oppressive rulers and the establishment of the Scribes and the Pharisees in Jerusalem.

The compassionate healing of the leper by Jesus in today’s Gospel must have been shocking to everyone. Shocking, because as narrated in today’s first reading Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46, whoever suffered from this type of skin/surface disease, leprosy (t[;r"+c')- we might call it Hansen disease, was regarded by the community as unclean and a threat to others. In fact, it was regarded as an incurable condition (See also Matt 8:1-4 and Luke 5:12-16).  Some in the ancient days thought it was even a punishment from God as a result of sin. It was an image of sin. Today we might have a different image of what is sinful in our society!

 But remember that story in the Book of Numbers 12:10-15, after Miriam and Aaron had spoken negatively against Moses, Miriam is said to have been afflicted with leprosy because she committed the sin of speaking against Moses, God’s Servant, a prophet (see also Deut 28:27; 2 Kings 5:25-27). How often do we speak harshly if not falsely against one another, the Church? However, as the disease progresses on the human skin, their limbs, hands, fingers, toes, noses, mouth could be disfigured with flies paging on the sores.

For fear of contaminating others, they were driven away from the neighborhood and kept in isolation and restricted from using common roads, stores and facilities. They must let others in the society know that they were lepers by not covering their hairs. They must also wear torn pants and clothing’s. If there is any reason for them to step outside their isolated camps they have to alert others by shouting “unclean, unclean, and unclean.” This disease had the power of separating members of the family from each other since contact with them would make others unclean! It is terrible to be isolated from  our community. Here we might want to think of what isolate us from our family member, friends, and community and even from the love of God. What seperates us from the love of God?

If for whatever reason a leper thought he was cured he or she must go through a very prolonged ritual of cleansing procedure, as stipulated by the Levitical Laws (Lev 13–14). These elaborate rituals include animal sacrifices, as well bringing oneself to be certified as cleaned and cured by the priest. Read Leviticus chapter 13–14 you will see it was not an easy process. This is what Jesus was dealing with love and instant compassion. No Levitical Bureaucracy.

It must have been an extraordinary healing session even to have a leper in the city, outside their camp. I am sure others were scared when they saw the man coming and kneeling before Jesus. He didn’t say “please Jesus kindly healed me.” Rather he said “IF YOU WISH YOU CAN MAKE ME CLEAN.” Probably, he knew, the hope of his hopeless condition was only going to be realized in Jesus; his healing grace and mercies

 Jesus said to the leper, “I do will be made clean.”  “Go show yourself to the priest, but tell no one.” But he went and told everyone. This is understandable, the experience of gratitude of been healed of been liberated. How do you feel when you are liberated from any burden or difficulty? I mean the experience and the joy of freedom, from debt, student loans and - could also be from the discrimination, and isolation; freedom from the terrible stigma of leprosy and freedom from sins in the case of this particular leper.

The highpoint of this lesson is nothing but the compassion of Jesus and the challenge before each of us to be imitators of Christ’s compassion and forgiving spirit ,in our relationship with one another (1 Cor 10:31–11:1). Sometimes we are called to go out of our way to show compassion and to forgive.  Jesus acted with a deep sense of compassion. He touched this leper against the Jewish law. He did not cure him from a distance (which reminds me of the care I see a certain lay woman brings to the seniors, voluntarily in one of the health care facilities- not the best in our country).

 We are “lepers” in one way or the other, morally, socially and spiritually. Jesus reminds us today how deeply he cares for us and ready to forgive and to bear our infirmities. Jesus has the will and the power of God to turns things in our lives. He can turn our talking back to daddy and mummy to listening obedience. He can turn our lack of attentiveness to our teachers, professors, and pastors to attentiveness. He can turn our selfishness to selflessness. He can turn our bad health to good health. He can turn our sadness to joy, austerity to prosperity. Jesus can turn our peace-less-ness to peacefulness. He can turn our exclusiveness to inclusiveness. He can turn our weaknesses to strengths.

As it must have been for the leper, may our encounter with Christ today bring memorable healings and peace in our lives and to our various communities.