SIXTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46
When a person has on the skin of his body a swelling or an eruption or a spot, and it turns into a leprous disease on the skin of his body, he shall be brought to Aaron the priest or to one of his sons the priests.
He is leprous, he is unclean. The priest shall pronounce him unclean; the disease is on his head.
The person who has the leprous disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head be disheveled; and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, “Unclean, unclean.” He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease; he is unclean. He shall live alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.
Psalm 32:1-2, 5, 11
Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Happy are those to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the guilt of my sin.
Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart.
1 Corinthians 10:31—11:1
Brothers and sisters,
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, so that they may be saved. Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.
A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, “If you choose, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I do choose. Be made clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, saying to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.
Leprosy is a contagious disease. It begins as a small swelling, spot or eruption on the skin and can advance to deformity, disfigurement and death. In the Jewish law, if you had signs of leprosy, a priest would pronounce you unclean. You would be ostracized from family, the community, and the temple, living outside of town. Lepers depended on the mercy of others to survive, while they had to maintain distance and slowly watch their health and their bodies deteriorate further and further. The condition would harm the body and be traumatic mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Imagine the toll such a crisis might take on a person becoming an untouchable and feeling the injustice of it.
The condition of leprosy is an earthly reminder of man’s fall from grace. God never designed for us to be so vulnerable to sickness and bacteria and viruses, and Jesus tells the leper that it is his will to make him clean. But the leprous man needed healing in more than just his body. He needed healing of his mental, emotional and spiritual condition as a result of the leprosy. He needed restoration to the community as well.
So the leper did not do what Jesus asked him to do. He didn’t care about what effect he might have on others but ran around telling everyone that Jesus had touched him and healed him. Then Jesus ended up being ostracized from the community, not able to go about openly but needing to go away into the country.
We need to care about the way we get sick interiorly at least as much as we are with our physical health. What if we were as concerned about our inner life as we were about our outer body?
Leprosy is not a threat to us anymore, but we still notice lesions on our skin. As soon as something appears on our skin, a rash, a boil or pustule, a mole, we wonder what it may be. We figure out how to treat it, sometimes consulting with doctors. Is it superficial or could it be a marker for a systemic problem? Is there an underlying illness to address? We determine what it is and what the cause may be and then we do our part to treat it, applying medicines, ointment or even surgery. We watch that it does not infect the whole body but rather that it heals. We prevent it from coming back.
Imagine if we treated sin the very same way. If we bypass the pride that shame really is, we take an honest appraisal of our condition. What is wrong with me? What is it that I can notice about myself that needs healing? Has someone observed something about me that I could not see myself? We should not be afraid to look carefully at ourselves in our imperfections and see what beginnings of sin we can take responsibility for. We should not want our sins to go deeper, to get ingrained in us, deforming us and affecting every aspect of our lives. We should not allow sin to destroy our relationships or our ability to worship God.
Our healing, the healing that is ours in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, takes the form of repenting, asking forgiveness, resolving never to sin again and avoiding temptations.
We examine our conscience and God’s word and know our sins and become more obedient to following him. To seek the advantage for others keeps us from sin and puts us on the path for greater healing and strengthening.
As we approach the season of Lent, consider the responsibility that we have for our own inner healing and how that can include the word of God and the Sacrament of Reconciliation.