Saturday, February 14, 2015

Homily (2) 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B: Fr. Michael Udoekpo

Homily (2) 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B: Fr. Michael 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, Our compassionate Healer
Last Sunday Jesus healed Simon Peter’s mother- in- law of her fever. In the bible readings of today, Saint Paul invites us to selflessly imitate him in Christ, who is the healer of our leprosies and our Ebolas, so to say!

Ebolas and leprosies, scary diseases! Christ’s healing ministry in today’s gospel (Mark 1:40-45) must have been shocking to everyone. First of all leprosy was not an easy illness to handle in ancient days, just as Ebola would scare all of us, these days!  As narrated in the first readings (Lev 13:1-2, 44-46), victims were treated differently, isolated and closely monitored by the priests. Some of their neighbors thought they would never be cured (Matt 8:1-4 and Luke 5:12-16).  Some thought it was a punishment from God as a result of sin. It was an image of sin, an uncleanness that the society must distance themselves from. In the Book of Numbers, we may recall, when Miriam sinned by speaking against Moses, God’s servants, she was afflicted with leprosy.  But I am sure, today, we have different images of what is sinful in our society!

 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 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 separates 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 included animal sacrifices, as well bringing oneself to be bureaucratically certified as cleansed and cured, by the Levitical priest.

In today’s Gospel, Christ is a different type of priest. He is very compassionate, in an extraordinarily healing session. There is a leper in the city and outside their isolated camp! He kneels before Jesus and 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!
 He mercifully 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 not only the compassion of Christ, but the need for us to acknowledge our “leprosies,” our “sins” and our “Ebolas,” so to say, which could come in different forms today. Paul notes some of them in the 2nd reading (1 Cor 10:31–11:1), to include being offensive to others and selfishness. For Paul refusal to avoid giving offense, a type of idolatries, divisions, and rivalries, that went on in the Corinthian community of Paul, are forms of leprosy.

Pauline disapproval of "offenses" against the Jews, Greek and the Church, can come to us today in form of what we say, about the church and others, the war, bokoharamism, and terrorism, the racism and discrimination, we wage against people of other faith, culture and religion. It could also come in form of our refusal to imitate the virtues of Paul, his selflessness, endurance, his promotion of common good, and doing everything for the greater glory of God!

 In other, words we are “lepers” in one way or the other; morally, socially and spiritually. All these can be cured in Christ! Acknowledgment of this, can provide us an opportunity to approach Christ as the leper did. We can do this in our neighbors we forgive, through the sacraments, especially of reconciliation we celebrate, and through acts of kindness, compassion and charity we do.  All that Christ wishes to say to us today is that, he wills to heal and forgive us, and our society!